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Author John Cech
Air Date 8/1/2007

Rize Transcript

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That’s Tommy the Clown from Los Angeles, who is featured on the compelling documentary, RIZE by David LaChapelle. This 2005 film has been on the cable channels, and it is now available on DVD. With its PG-13 rating, it is not, strictly speaking, a family film or a film for children. But it is about both families and children finding hopeful directions in their lives in inner city Los Angeles, which someone in the film call, Hollywatts.

And these young people are stepping their way through dance, and the highly charged performances that they call “clowning.” The film is full of these electrifying, free-form dance sets, and David LaChapelle never strays far from his own heel-to-the-toe, cross-cutting roots in the music video business. In “Rize,” LaChapalle blends that media art form with that of the documentary, weaving together the lives and families of the dancers with surprising background, including some historical footage of traditional African dance that includes moves that are remarkably similar to what these young dancers are doing in this country today.

An array of dancers and dance groups enter and have their moments in the movie, especially in the annual dance competition of the film’s grand finale. But it’s really Tommy the Clown’s story. As he explains, Tommy began clowning after a trip to jail for drug dealing. It wasn’t long before Tommy had taken in young apprentices and began cultivating proteges, whom he taught how to absorb his particular approach for dancing away the anger and pain and aimlessness and danger of their lives, in order to change their lives. And you see, and feel the pulse of those changes here, through art — changes into something amazing, something transcendent.

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Posted in Film, Music