Sunday, May 6, 2007

Tribeca Film Fest - Saturday, May 5

Benson Lee
Originally uploaded by Mirka23.
Went to the theater early this morning to see Planet B-boy, a documentary about an international breakdancing competition. See, breakdancing didn't disappear when we forgot about it in the mid-80s. It spread around the world and evolved. You can still see evidence of it in American pop culture, but this film is probably the most awe-inspiring you've seen it in a long time.

The film follows five crews as they get ready for the international competition called Battle of the Year. Two crews from South Korea (one was the champ from the previous year), one from France, one from the USA, and one from Japan. The dancing is incredible. The film is insightful and funny. The art direction is quality - there're some amazing graphics, especially in the beginning of the film.

The film does a great job of introducing the crews and before you know it you're identifying with them and why they all want - need - to win this competition. I'm not afraid to admit that I cried when they announced the winner. Tears of joy, of course. Afterwards, when I told director Benson Lee (pictured) that I loved the film and I cried at the end, he said, "It got you, huh?" and then he patted me on the back.

I've seen a description of the film which described the annual Battle of the Year competition as "the World Cup of b-boying." That's kind of ironic, because the second film I saw today was Michael Apted's The Power of the Game, which actually was about the World Cup, and it didn't come anywhere near having the impact of B-boy.

I think there are a number of reasons for this. For one thing, anyone who would see this movie probably already knows the outcome of the 2006 World Cup, so there's no suspense there. For another, the film is not really able to get as familiar with all of the people it introduces, so it fails to create the same feeling of investment in the "characters." But the worst offense is, I think, a serious violation of the premise of the film. I think this was done so that the film would more easily appeal to an American audience, but it seriously backfires.

See, the movie seems to be, for the most part, about exploring the positive ways that soccer (a.k.a. football in most of the world) has impacted people's lives. Usually these are social, economic, or political issues that soccer is somehow helping people to transcend. These issues include Apartheid in South Africa, oppression of women in Iran, extreme poverty in Argentina, racism and anti-Semitism in Europe, and child slavery in Senegal. These are all very serous matters, and while you may question how it could be that soccer helps combat these evils, it's definitely an interesting concept to explore.

What I can't understand is why a good fifth of the film (maybe more) is devoted to the USA, where apparently our biggest soccer-related social issue is a lack of enthusiasm for the sport. Seriously? That's what you want to talk about? Landon Donovan isn't as famous and obscenely rich as other American sports stars? Aside from the fact that this material seems frivolous and out of place with the rest of the film, there's the additional insult of an implication (by both Donovan and ex-US national coach, Bruce Arena) that it's the fans' fault that the sport is not more popular in the U.S. This film was severely disappointing.

No comments: