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2013 Tribeca Film Review: "Flexing" Goes Mainstream in 'Flex is Kings'

  • By Vanessa Martinez
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  • April 20, 2013 12:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
I have always found the body-contorting dance form of street dancing, contemporarily known as “flexing”, to be a creative and exhilarating art form. The documentary Flex is Kings, directed by Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols, manages to reaffirm those original perceptions of the very competitive urban dance movement. However, aside from showcasing “flexing’s” relevance as a formal art form, Kings didn’t exceed my expectations as a feature documentary. Set in Brooklyn, East New York, Kings focuses on the lives of Jermaine "Flizzo" Clement and Jonathan "Jay Donn" George. Flizzo, a bearded, heavy-set dancer, distinguishes himself with a ‘punchline’ trick of a having a bird flying from his mouth. The film also documents Flizzo’s homelife: an unstable relationship and a newborn daughter. What resonates with his story is Flizzo’s passion for dancing and battling against all odds, especially when it comes his economic and personal woes. Jay Donn, another icon of the dance movement, lives with his mother and very supporting girlfriend. His story is the most touching and fascinating. Donn is hired by a dance company to star in a new adaptation of Pinocchio and gets a chance to tour Europe for the play. Donn is thrilled about the opportunity, and through practice and determination, he’s able to learn a choreographed routine and adapt to different styles of classical dance. One thing I have been curious about and which wasn’t covered in the documentary is the origin of flexing. I thought Flexing had its roots in hip-hop and 70/80’s breakdancing (although it certainly has to influence flexing); however, upon further research, "flex” is said to have evolved from the Jamaican dance “bruk-up”. The filmmakers missed an opportunity to make a more thorough documentary about the art form itself. Another frustrating aspect while viewing is some of the editing, which cuts away to the crowds throughout some of the most thrilling dance sequences during battle scenes. I would have also appreciated to have seen addressed, especially since the documentary is set in New York City, the lives of dancers who try to make ends meet dancing in trains, which is quite common. The documentary could perhaps serve best to banish stereotypes surrounding those who decide to partake in this subculture. They are hardly gangsters; this lifestyle helps these young men to escape a life of selling drugs, gang and street life, and hence allow for them to channel their emotions and express themselves creatively. It is unfortunate that the filmmakers didn’t delve more into the foundation and background of “flexing”. It would have also made for a more compelling documentary to showcase the dancers’ detailed footwork and overall technique. Yet, Flex is Kings is still recommended viewing. The dancing and ardent fervor of its subjects are enough to keep you engaged. Along with the documentary’s competent score and cinematography, Kings brings the “flexing” underground movement to mainstream audiences, who should be enlightened by the passion and ability of its main players. NEW Trailer: Flex Is Kings from Flex Is Kings on Vimeo.

Watch Trailer for Upcoming ESPN Documentary 'The Clemente Effect'

  • By Vanessa Martinez
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  • January 24, 2013 11:18 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Clemente Effect, a new ESPN documentary on the life of the late Puerto Rican baseball right fielder, is slated to debut in the sports network soon.

Review: 'The Bastard Sings The Sweetest Song' A Subtle But Strikingly Moving Doc

  • By Vanessa Martinez
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  • January 23, 2013 9:20 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Currently screening at the Royal Cinema in Toronto since last Friday is Christy Garland’s documentary The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song, which revolves around a family from Georgetown, Guyana in South America. The family’s matriarch, 75-year old Mary, is an alcoholic in denial. She’s also a talented poet who once set out to write a book of poems.

'Mr. SOUL!' Docu (Sam Pollard, Melissa Haizlip, Bradford Young) Closes in on Final Day of Fundraising

  • By Jai Tiggett
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  • October 23, 2012 4:16 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Mr. SOUL!: Ellis Haizlip and the Birth of Black Power TV, the feature length documentary profiling one of the most controversial, successful, and socially significant TV shows in US history, is closing in on its final day of fundraising towards its $75,000 goal.

Preview: 'Agents of Change' Docu Charts the Struggle for Black Studies on College Campuses

  • By Jai Tiggett
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  • October 22, 2012 6:09 PM
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  • 1 Comment
From Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg, Agents of Change is a feature length documentary that tells the story of "the intersection of race, culture, and the American university."

Trailer: NYFF '12 Screening Doc 'The Savoy King: Chick Webb & The Music That Changed America'

  • By Vanessa Martinez
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  • September 10, 2012 6:20 PM
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  • 1 Comment
A trailer has surfaced for the Swing-era feature documentary The Savoy King: Chick Webb & The Music That Changed America, which screens at the New York Film Festival starting this month.

Preview 'Negrita' (Documentary on Afro Latina Identity in the U.S.)

  • By Jasmin Tiggett
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  • September 10, 2012 10:44 AM
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  • 2 Comments
NEGRITA, a forthcoming documentary from director/producer Magdalena Albizu, will look deeper into the experience of Afro Latinas in the United States.

MacArthur Foundation Open Call for up to $200,000 in Documentary Funding (Deadline Imminent)

  • By Jasmin Tiggett
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  • September 6, 2012 4:54 PM
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  • 3 Comments
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is currently accepting proposals for documentary film and transmedia projects. Filmmakers interested in applying have until tomorrow, September 7 to submit. So get to it!

TTFF '12 Preview: Doc On Leonard Percival Howell As 'The First Rasta' & Alleged Founding Father

  • By Vanessa Martinez
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  • September 4, 2012 6:56 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Making its Caribbean premiere at this year's Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, which runs September 19 - October 2, the 2010 feature documentary The First Rasta is directed by Rastafarian scholar Helene Lee.

2012 NYFF Preview: Doc/Fiction 'Kinshasa Kids' (Journey Of Disowned "Witch" Kids in Congolese Capital )

  • By Vanessa Martinez
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  • August 28, 2012 8:35 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Belgium/France "documentary/fiction hybrid" Kinshasa Kids, set in the capital of Congo, is slated to screen at the upcoming New York Film Festival (September 28-October 14).