BREAKIN' IN: THE MAKING OF A HIP HOP DANCER (Elizabeth St. Philip) Rating: NNN
It's a fact: a rap video without a scantily clad female dancer will get less airplay on BET than Garth Brooks on Flow 93.5.
The sight of sexy ladies is so commonplace that viewers take them for granted, giving little thought to the struggles of the women who've set their sights on landing 35 seconds next to the rapper of the month. Elizabeth St. Philip's documentary offers seldom-seen candid shots of the lives of three such women.
Meet Tracy, a pro dancer bound for a Missy Elliott audition in NYC; Linda, a single mom and aspiring artist in the duo 2 Shades of Black living in Regent Park; and Michelle, a university student caught between doing the video thing or entering post-graduate education (dude, her parents are so pissed).
All three ladies are highly driven and complex. Breakin' In, a Hot Docs selection last year, gives a good picture of them as they grapple with skills and self-image during the sometimes humiliating process of video casting.
As the visually Toronto-centric documentary progresses, crosscut with clips of dancing in rap videos, the double intrigue of learning about the girls as they parlay the industry hoovers you into the story.
The film has a CBC-ish low-budget grainy digital look, and the prepped way some of the subjects talk to the camera sometimes feels like a dramatization.
The 57 minutes are so gripping that the film could easily have run longer. Friday (February 17) as part of the MPENZI: Black Women's International Film and Video Festival.