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This documentary follows the rise of the "krump" subculture in Los Angeles, a form of acrobatic dancing performed in clown makeup. Beginning as entertainment for children's parties, "krumping" soon develops into a widespread activity - and an alternative to gang membership - with dozens of local clown groups competing against each other to excel.

Review by Jake Wilson:
The vision of dozens of breakdancing clown posses patrolling the streets of South Central Los Angeles is weird enough for fiction - these guys could be West Coast equivalents of the fanciful New York street gangs in Walter Hill's The Warriors. But according to David LaChappelle's civic-minded documentary, framed by quotes from Martin Luther King, "krumping" is not only a real subculture but an alternative to traditional gang membership and a revolt against the materialistic obsessions of mainstream hip-hop. Which is not to say that aggressive rivalry and the threat of violence aren't also part of the lifestyle: underneath the face-paint, the anger doesn't go away.

Where did the movement come from? Tommy the Clown (aka Tom Johnson), children's party entertainer, "ghetto celebrity" and sometime drug dealer, has no doubts: the clown gimmick arose as part of a scheme to turn his life around and bring wholesome messages to the local kids. Others may contest his version of events, but as a documentary Rize is more focused on personal testimony and on-the-ground reportage than a broader historical perspective. Rightly or wrongly, the viewer seems faced with primal creativity issuing from a suburban void: desperation, boredom and the desire to "be someone" giving rise to outlandish colorful spectacle and high-speed bodily display.

Every culture looks exotic from the outside, and some of the same strangeness might ensue if LaChappelle were filming a tribe of dervishes or a science-fiction convention (even if those guys can't dance). While Rize doesn't dig particularly deeply into its subject, LaChappelle has some success matching his editing to the fleetness of the performers (particularly in the climatic dance-off sequence) while still allowing them space to do their thing. Recommended to fans, potential fans, and the curious; the main thing you can ask from a documentary is that it show you something new, and for me this one certainly did.

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Mixed: 0

(US, 2005)

CAST: Documentary with Lil C., Tommy the Clown, Dragon, Tight Eyez, La Niña, Miss Prissy

PRODUCER: David LaChapelle, Marc Hawker, Ellen Jacobson

DIRECTOR: David LaChapelle

SCRIPT: David LaChapelle

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Morgan Susser, Michael Totten

EDITOR: Fernando Villena

MUSIC: Amy Marie Beauchamp, Jose Cancela


RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 10, 2005


VIDEO RELEASE: April 20, 20006

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