Elderly hip hop dance doc charms IDFA crowds
“I was worried my movie about a group of elderly people from New Zealand wouldn’t resonate on a global scale,” says documentary director Bryn Evans. His movie, Hip Hop-eration, follows thirty senior citizens from a small New Zealand Island, the oldest of whom is 96, preparing for the World Hip-Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas. It is one of many movies in the International Documentary Film-festival Amsterdam this week. Being selected to show his first feature-length documentary at one of the world’s most prestigious festivals was like hitting the Holy Grail, he said in an interview with the NL Times. “I reached the pinnacle of my career and just hoped people would like it.”
The film has remained at or near the top of the audience rankings since the festival began last week, a fact that noticeably surprised the director. Evans thinks one reason the movie is so well received because it is a cheerful film, and a departure from the doom-and-gloom topics many documentaries convey. But moreover he points out the film does have an important message. “Myself coming from a background in human rights stories I was initially worried this film was too fluffy and light, but halfway through I realized this is just as much about human rights as any other story,” he said. “These elderlies stand up to be accounted for, to have a voice and say,’I believe in this.’” Young people in particular are drawn to the dance crew’s purpose. “They see a group get up on stage, not to dance well, but to inspire them to achieve whatever their dreams may be.”
Evans is surprised to see how it breaks barriers and creates a transformation in kids. He says he received a letter from a mother of two children who were reluctant to watch his documentary, but came out of the film delighted. The mother’s letter went on to boast about her kids now holding doors open for elderly ladies. When asked if his film and its inclusion in IDFA is opening doors for him, Evans says he is already noticing the effect. He says he thinks this movie will enable him to grow as a filmmaker, staying true to his own stories, while making sure he does not lose sight of the lighter, human side of things. Hip Hop-eration screens Wednesday night at 10 p.m. in the Tuschinski theatre, Thursday evening at the Melkweg, and at the EYE on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available through the IDFA website.