Review: ‘Young Rebels’

"Young Rebels" unites two of the most over-mined fields in documentary filmmaking: hip-hop in foreign cultures and music in Cuba. In striving to cover the transplanted rap scene, sample a wide range of groups, and give an unbiased picture of Cuban society, helmers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck blur the overall shape of their picture.

“Young Rebels” unites two of the most over-mined fields in documentary filmmaking: hip-hop in foreign cultures and music in Cuba. In striving simultaneously to cover the transplanted rap scene, sample a wide range of groups, and give an unbiased picture of Cuban society, helmers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who have hitherto worked in short-form, blur the overall shape of their picture. Wealth of material and openness of approach should nevertheless attract fest and musical venues.

Though the pic’s structure doesn’t always favor recognition of the musicians involved, their earnestness and commitment, both to their country and their music, resonates collectively, while lesbian feminist rappers on stilts provide welcome touches of local color. Affably ambling pic is particularly strong in examining the economics of rap. Tying hip-hop’s rise in Cuba to the influx of American dollars and the attendant widening gap between classes and races, pic also examines the almost inevitable co-option of marginal street art. This happens not by commercialization, as in America, but rather by institutionalization, as a cultural agency takes over the annual Hip Hop Festival and a strategic power failure silences the stream of aggressive discontent.

Young Rebels

U.S.-Cuba

Production

A Gowanus Projections production. Produced by Anna Boden, Richard Sterling. Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Fleck, Elise Wise; editor, Boden. Spanish, English dialogue. Reviewed at MOMA New Directors/New Films, New York, March 15, 2005. Running time: 70 MIN.

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