Thursday, December 15, 2011

Planet B-Boy (2007)


This refreshing documentary directed by Benson Lee chronicled the 2005 international breakdancing competition better known as the Battle of the Year held in Braunshweig, Germany. This annual event was created in 1990 and is still going strong! Each country can only send one team to represent their nation so the regional qualifiers would determine the chosen one! 19 dance crews would eventually get the seal of approval to compete in this prestigious “World Cup for B-Boys”!

Our first encounter with Planet B-Boy was at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival when it screened outdoors for free on the pier by the World Financial Center on April 28th. It was actually a pretty neat event as a dance crew from Korea (Last for One) was on hand to 'move the crowd' on stage before the screening!

The film would open up to a brief history lesson of this art form as b-boys & b-girls otherwise known as breakdancers would site the influence of kung fu films, gymnastics, and some James Brown funk moves as the basis for breakin’. The term battle would insinuate a breakdancing showdown between two rival individuals or crews with gestures and break moves with the spirit of a fight without actually fighting! Some of the international teams mentioned that the movie Flashdance was an inspirational movie to them and not because of Jennifer Beals but instead for the scene where the Rock Steady Crew were breakdancing on the street to the beat of Jimmy Castor’s “It’s just begun”. Crazy Legs, Frosty Freeze, Ken Swift, & Mr. Freeze did a tremendous demonstration of B-Boy’ing! Who can forget the insane suicide flop and the sliding backwards move with the umbrella by the great Frosty Freeze! (R.I.P.)

Teams that made it to the 2005 Battle of the Year competition in Germany included crews from Thailand, Taiwan, China, Latvia, Belgium, South Africa, Greece, Denmark, Spain, & Israel. However, the heavy hitters of the battle would come from Japan, South Korea, France, and the US. Don’t worry, I’m not going to divulge any spoilers for the film but I will mention some of the team names and just describe some of their strong suits! The competition will be judged on a 6 minute choreographed routine which would be heavily marked on theme music, synchronization, stage presence, uprock, downrock, freezes, & power moves!

The Phase-T team from France would have an intricate and aggressive dance style. Some even described them as having the most graceful and well choregraphed routines as well. They would also be credited to having the best sensitivity to music. I perceived Phase-T to be the most cocky out of all the teams. They seemed to have a true discontent for the crew from the USA. The France team has reached the finals in the last 4 competitions!

The Knucklehead Zoo from Las Vegas would have unbelievable individual dance moves but can they come together as a group? The last time the US won was in 1998 so you know the US is hungry to bring back the title to the homeland of B-Boy’ing!

Japan would come strong with a funky crew named Ichigeki. Exploding and feeling free would be a few words that one of the members would describe his group. The seriousness in refining their moves and battling spirit would be compared to the way of the bushido! Ichigeki was my favorite team from the movie!

Korea would have two teams representing their country because one of the crews, Gamblerz are the defending champions from 2004 so they automatically get a pass to the Battle. The 2nd team from South Korea, Last For One is a new team that is hungry to dethrone anyone standing in their way. Other teams describe them as being more than just a power dance crew with tons of attitude and style! Last For One was confident but not cocky yet they rocked to a sense of urgency like it might be their last battle. The Gamblerz on the other hand are more boisterous featuring a more powerful, acrobatic, & technical dance flow! They are the defending champs and they certainly were on everyone’s hit list! The Gamblerz were also an older crew which meant that some of the members are required to serve in the South Korean military for two years. The Korean team noted that they would love to meet Japan in one of the finale Battles! They stated that Korea can always forgive but can never forget! Damn, those are fighting words!!

The battle for third place and the fight for 1st and 2nd would be a dog fight for the ages! The Gamblerz did an amazing choreographed routine to the theme of the struggle between North and South Korea as they reconciled to unite as one force. Phase-T members kept on reiterating that hip hop can be peace, love, and unity but when a battle ensues on the dance floor, it's war! Who will come out victorious?

Amidst all the tension of the competition, the day after the storm would prove to be a more peaceful setting as the different crews ate, talked, & bonded together as they all discovered that they spoke the same language, the universal language of hip hop! This is a wonderful documentary that should be seen and not just read. Like it or not, hip hop culture has a big influence on our youths. Perhaps this film will help serve as a spotlight to bridge this gap. Breakdancing is just another form of creative expression that serves as a positive outlet for developing individuality and spirituality. Lets celebrate this international smorgasbord called Planet B-Boy!

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