Planet B-Boy

Planet B-Boy


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Documentaries live or die by the interest of their subject or people they document. Planet B-Boy is a bog-standard sports movie, albeit well-researched and most definitely made by passionate talent. Get past the half-baked philosophising about the spirituality of the sport, B-Boying is breakdancing - an often magnificent physical expression of character, mood and violence on the dance-floor.

The staples of the sports documentary are present and correct, with no efforts to extend or improve them: Talking heads, preparation footage, a contest to decide who is the best (the "Battle of the Year 2005") and wordless duels of co-ordination and physical excellence. For all intents and purposes, we might as well be watching Arnold Schwarzenegger wibbling about moving heavy things in Pumping Iron again.

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Lack of individuality within the groups dulls our collective memories about their personalities, but the countries themselves are somewhat distinguished by the skills they prize most highly. The French prize the rhythm of dance, the Koreans (their teams called Gamblerz and Last For One) their connsumate technical abilities (and most notably, the realisation that they may not get a chance to do this again once they enter compulsory military service proves to be a fine motivator), and the Americans work best on the competitive "battling". Think 8 Mile, but swap Eminem's words for physical prowess - and you're on the right track.

The only time we care about the people is when not one, but two competitors begin waxing lyrical about their families. A member of the Last For One team is interviewed on-camera with his ultra-conservative and estranged father. He may not approve of his son's poor standard of living, but he knows that his son is doing what he loves the most. The point is, do what you truly love, and let everything else take a back-seat before responsibility steps in.

The photography and editing is excellent, particularly during the finale, where the dancers go hell-for-leather to win their place in the "Battle" and the sheer physicality of the sport and training takes the breath away. It does get repetitive, which makes all the additional technical flair or surprising dance moves that bit more interesting when it arrives.

Planet B-Boy is well-made and great to look at - but strictly for fans only. It does not cross the boundaries of fandom, or even attempt to - unlike the recent and memorable Rize, or Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, which made bridges between the interested non-fans and the hardcore devotees. A little less infatuation with the sport, and more interest in the people practicing it might have gone some way to humanising this sometimes compelling story.

Reviewed on: 24 Aug 2007
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Planet B-Boy packshot
Documentary looking at the world of breakdancing.
Amazon link

Director: Benson Lee

Year: 2007

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2007
Tribeca 2007

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