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Cass' review of

Rize (2005)
Rated R: running time: 86 minutes
Genre: Documentary
Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Directed by: David LaChapelle
Movie Theater: The Grand Theatre
Cast: Tommy the Clown, Lil C.Tight Eyez, La Niña, Miss Prissy
Official site: http://www.rizemovie.com/
IMDB site: http://imdb.com/title/tt0436724/

Review Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2005

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CASS' CLIP (WARNING: **spoilers below**)
People use different artistic modes to express their emotional well being. The expressions of choice in David LaChapelle’s documentary, Rize, are two new dance forms -- clowning and krumping. New only for folks like me who were unaware of it, but clowning and krumping started on the streets of South Central Los Angeles in the early '90s. The dancer's body erupts into a frenzy gyrating motion. Think of it as a sped up version of an African tribal dance combined with some of today's hip-hop/R&B/rap music. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rize opens with footage of two famous Los Angeles riots -- the 1965 Watts riots, and the 1992 riots that erupted after the Rodney King verdict. Fast-forward to Tommy Johnson (Tommy the Clown), the neighborhood's Godfather of Clowning. [He's a mix of Homie D. Clown and Hammer]. Because Tommy was so funny and crazy, a friend asked him to be a clown at her child's birthday party. Once Tommy donned a rainbow colored wig and powdered and painted his face, fate took its course. [Just for the record, before Tommy started clowning, he did a stint in jail for dealing with a different kind of powder. The time he spent locked up though, wasn't something to laugh about, but he survived with his sense of humor intact.]

Tommy started a Clown Academy as an alternative to keeping another generation of disadvantaged youths from selling drugs or joining gangs. His success spawned rival clown troops, which beget a krumping crew. LaChapelle also combined today’s clowning and krumping dancers with archival footage of African tribesmen and women performing ritual dances. This particular footage provided an ancestral link of how clowning and krumping may have actually originated.

The climax, of course, is a dance-off between these clowning and krumping factions. This event was so huge that it was held in Inglewood's Great Western Forum arena. Who won the competition? You'll have to Rize to find out. However, the way I see it, movie-goers are the real winners because they’ll be glued to the screen with every non-stop pelvic thrust.

DA 411
In 2004, David LaChapelle, a well-known fashion photographer, stepped beyond the camera lens and directed a short 24-minute documentary called Krmuped. Rize is another electrifying documentary that goes beyond where Krmuped left off. Some movie-goers may see Rize as nothing more than an 86-minute dance video. What I witnessed, however, was more like an artistic spiritual awakening and healing. The individuals involved in this almost cult-like following, are as talented as those students auditioning for a coveted spot at Julliard. Two things separate them from reaching their respective goals -- money and a bit of good fortune. What LaChapelle's documentary Rize has given these dancers is a platform to showcase their talents to the masses. Hopefully, a talent scout watches this film and as a result, that may translate into a bit of good fortune for these performers.

Despite the odds against them, these "ghetto ballet" dancers created another subculture as a means of survival. I liked the fact that LaChapelle allowed the Clowns and Krumpers to give us a behind-the-scenes look of their way of life instead of using voice-over narration. And, the music perfectly adds another element to the storytelling. My hats off to David LaChapelle!

As long as clowning and krumping stays rooted in its non-violent code of ethics, then these brothas and sistahs will certainly continue to "Rize Up"!

RIZE green

Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2005
EMAIL: cass@3blackchicks.com


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