Trendy fashion photographer turned filmmaker David LaChapelle's vibrant documentary about the urban dance phenomenon known as "krumping" opens with an odd assurance: "The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way." Once the film begins, the need for the disclaimer becomes clear: These adolescents and young adults, most from Los Angeles' beleaguered South Central neighborhood, shake, break, hump, bump and booty-pop with such dizzying speed that it sometimes feels as though it was all shot in fast-motion then played back in fast-forward. LaChapelle begins with images of L.A. in flames, first during the Watts riots of 1968, then in 2002, when the Rodney King riots once again destroyed much of South Central. Today's krumpers grew up in those ashes, kids raised in broken homes and educated in underfunded schools whose lack of afterschool programs leaves them to their own devices. Many turn to gangs, but increasing numbers have taken to "clowning" — krumping's immediate precursor — as a positive alternative. Instead of doing drugs, crime and time, the kids of Watts, Englewood and Compton — many students of community-hero Tommy the Hip-Hop Clown — have begun forming "clown groups." With their faces brightly painted and sometimes dressed in circus gear, these clowns entertain their community and, more importantly, gain self-respect by doing something positive for themselves. Like ecdysiasts on ecstasy, they build their routines around the rump-shaking "stripper dance," but there seem to be endless freestyle variations. The more aggressive krumping replaces the playful stripper dance with confrontational moves and a bring-it-on attitude, but the differences are subtle. Even when clowns and krumpers face off at Battlezone V, a competition organized by Tommy the Clown, it's hard to tell who's doing what. If LaChapelle's film isn't as rich as Jenny Livingston's fascinating PARIS IS BURNING (1991), it's because krumping doesn't expose as many social fault lines as vogueing, which bends not just class and race, but gender and sexuality as well. LaChapelle does offer a revealing slice of South Central life, but treads some dicey waters when he reads too much into one dancer's assertion that krumping is something that's born in you, and takes a detour to Africa to compare today's L.A. youth to the traditional Nuba people of the Sudan. Making matters worse is that the footage LaChapelle uses was shot by Leni Riefenstahl, a filmmaker with her own history of objectifying the African body for purposes of personal ideology.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Trendy fashion photographer turned filmmaker David LaChapelle's vibrant documentary about the urban dance phenomenon known as "krumping" opens with an odd assurance: "The footage in this film has not been sped up in any way." Once the film begins, the need… (more)