Director: David LaChapelle
Topic: Youths in L.A.’s South Central neighborhood express themselves creatively through an athletic and aggressive dance movement called “krumping” that combines modern freak dancing and tribal moves.
Shooting format: High-def 24p video and some 16mm film footage.
Why it stands out: LaChapelle vividly captures the grassroots dance phenomenon and examines negative preconceptions of inner-city life to reveal a vibrant community.
Memorable scene: During production, featured dancer Quinesha “Lil’ Dimples” Dunford, 15, is slain in a drive-by shooting. As her mother memorializes Dunford, footage of her dancing is intercut.
Distribution/broadcast status: Lions Gate distributed theatrically ($3.4 million cume); available on DVD.
On making the film: Photog LaChapelle committed to documenting the krumping movement after a nighttime visit to Tommy the Clown’s dance academy in South Central. A former gang member and drug dealer, Tommy teaches his original hip-hop clowning and dancing techniques to area kids. “I’d never seen people move their bodies like that, but when I found out about their lives and their stories, the dance became so much more profound,” LaChapelle says of “Rize’s” inspiration.
LaChapelle initially cut a short-form docu, aiming to spark interest from distribs. “Krumped” screened at Sundance 2004 fest and garnered much attention, but all deals proffered came with many preconditions. Rather than give up creative control, the helmer decided to finance and finish a feature-length version himself. LaChapelle contends he became so obsessed with the project that he worked without a day off for 2½ years.
“South Central is like another country, it’s the other United States. It’s a Third World country within our own borders,” LaChapelle says.
He found the gang-torn neighborhoods all the more insidious and oppressive because the blue skies and palm trees overhead belie the menace below. The director describes his “Rize” subjects as true heroes. “In a place where you’d expect to find nothing but hopelessness, you find all this energy, life and hope.”