Not quite definitive, “Five Sides of a Coin” is nevertheless a thorough overview of hip-hop’s origins and influences. Nifty, well-executed docu emphasizes music’s creative, bohemian side, skipping more commercial excesses that have come in the era of 50 Cent and other materialistic rappers. As such, pic has great appeal on alternative circuits, and should get good spin at music-minded fests. Main market, though, figures to be in sell-through DVD.
Helmer and chief lenser Paul Kell spent years researching turntable-based movement’s West Bronx block party roots, as well as traveling Europe, Asia and the States to capture its fallout. Great looking pic is divided into chapters detailing major touchstones, like Gil Scott-Heron and other spoken word mavens, and innovators like Cowboy, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. Along the way, sidestreams like break-dancing, emceeing, beat-boxing (with rhythms-based human voices) and graffiti tagging (or “aerosol culture”) are examined, as are elements of gender and race. Non-narrated effort is told playfully by articulate participants (like Jeru and DJ Spooky) and supported by a smattering of archival material, all held together with appropriately colorful visual effects.