“This is not a trend. This is us. This is who we are.”
After the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, a new dance form was created out of the oppression, frustration and fear that blanketed the city. It’s called “clowning” or “krumping” and it’s a way of life for thousands of urbanites, keeping them off of the dangerous gang-infested streets of L.A.
As Rize begins, we’re introduced to Tommy, “The Hip-Hop Clown”, who is the self-proclaimed inventor of the dance…style. After serving a prison sentence, Tommy wanted to give something back to the community, so he became a hip-hop clown for neighborhood birthday parties. At these parties, he and his friends would try out new dance moves AKA “clowning”, which eventually spread throughout L.A. and the dance is still evolving to this day.
As it evolved, two sects of the dance style formed. They are the Clowns — who are a part of Tommy the Clown’s group, and the Krumpers — mostly made up of former clowns who went off on their own. These two groups even do friendly battle in sold-out arenas, but even in the fiercest of competition, the groups maintain a level of endearing respect for one another.
Throughout the film, we see these people — both kids and adults, struggling with the every day danger in which they live. Clowning or Krumping is a release for them, a place where they unleash their anger, all while remaining positive and helping others do the same. And even as Tommy the Clown’s house is broken into while he’s away at an event, he keeps his head high, not wanting the children around him to see he’s upset — not wanting the negative forces that surround him to bring him down. As the inventor of the dance style, Tommy says he is “the richest man in the hood and I ain’t got a dime.”
We also meet other dancers, who share similar stories of plight, and how clowning or krumping has put them on a better path. The mother of one dancer is in prison for drugs, another dancer was a former gang-member, and another dancer was shot in the arm by his drunken grandfather. Tommy the Clown has taken on a younger dancer as a little brother, raising him as if he was his own. And as we delve deeper into the people who share the release of dancing, the movie takes on another aspect, one of survival and spirituality through art and expression. In one of the film’s more humorous scenes, we hear the mother of one of the dancers confessing the sins of her past as a gang-member, and how her children and their dancing has made her change her own life. Now she “krumps for Christ.”
While the subject matter of Rize is always interesting — especially when LaChapelle visually compares krumping to African tribal dances — the film can’t help but slow down a bit, especially towards the end. By then, most of the dance moves blend together, and at times, we hear the same statements repeated by the dancers. Unlike some documentaries, which feel more like feature films, Rize is raw — and works — reflecting the people and dance style, to good effect.
In the end, we come away happy, knowing that even in America’s most dangerous cities, people are using art to express themselves peacefully. If Rize can spread the feeling across the country, to other cities in need of a similar release, then it’s accomplished something no other documentary ever has before.
Rize is presented in 1.33.1 fullscreen. For those with widescreen televisions, the image stretched nicely across my widescreen TV and never felt distorted in any way. I would recommend you watch it the same way. In it’s 4×3 format, the picture is both clear and raw at the same time.
Rize features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a Dolby 2.0 track. Being a documentary, the DD 5.1 track handles dialogue nicely, and the accompanying rap music much better. When rap music is played over the dance scenes, the LFE gets a great workout. Music is also separated to the surrounds, enveloping the viewer, and making them feel like a spectator.
While the Dolby 2.0 track does well enough, the music is not as powerful — with little separation and less crispness than the DD 5.1 track.
- Commentary with Director – David LaChapelle gives a lot of good details and useful insight throughout his commentary, especially when recalling his surreal first trip to Tommy the Clown’s dance studio, which was located in a run down strip mall, next to a casket store.
- DVD Introduction with Cast and Director – LaChapelle and the dancers thank the viewer and everyone involved with the film.
- Filmmaking Insight with Director and Director of Photography – LaChapelle speaks about how he approached shooting Rize, stating that he didn’t need to use any fancy camera work to make the film interesting because the dancers and the dance itself was interesting enough. Well said.
- New Dancer Interviews with Director – LaChapelle leads a discussion where the dancers catch the viewer up with what they are doing today and how the film has changed their lives.
- Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Cast – a New York audience viewing the film asks the dancers questions about their lives and how their dancing has changed it.
- Director Photo Gallery – pictures LaChapelle compiled while shooting the film.
- Dance Moves by Rize Dancers – 1 minute breakdowns of dance moves by different dancers with commentaries.
- Extended Scenes – extended dance scenes cut from the film.
- Deleted Scenes – deleted/extended scenes cut from the film.
- Trailer – plays more like a music video.
While Rize is not as thought provoking or insightful as other documentaries, it’s a different and fascinating look into a sub-culture that remains positive in the most negative of environments. If anything, Rize works because it lets you know these kinds of people are out there — using art to fight back against tough odds. Rize looks and sounds good, and there are plenty extras to get beneath what is presented in the film. You just can’t help but feel good about whole experience.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary
- Introduction with Cast and Director
- Filmmaking Insight with Director and Director of Photography
- New Dancer Interviews with Director
- Tribeca Film Festival Q&A with Cast
- Director Photo Gallery
- Dance Moves by Rize Dancers
- Extended/Deleted Scenes