Rize is a documentary following an interview schedule of two related dancing subcultures of Los Angeles called Clowning and Krumping. The first series of interviews introduces, describes and develops the dance style known as Clowning. A descendent of 1980s breakdancing, Clowning is a contemporary street art all its own, characterized by speedy, flowing limbs, feverish shakes, hipness, and confounding athletic tricks. Tommy Johnson, better known by his alias Tommy the Clown, is a former drug dealer and a man with a mission. For Tommy, Clowning is more than an aesthetic pastime: In an area besieged by drive-by shootings, drug deals and unemployment; Clowning is his way of offering an optimistic alternative for youngsters, a means of self-expression and a chance to channel positive energy.
The second series of interviews and footage explains how the dance style known as Krumping evolved from Clowning and matured into its own identity. Like Clowning, Krumping is characterized by free, expressive exaggerated, and highly energetic movement. The youths who started Krumping, known as Lil C' and Miss Prissy, saw the dance as a way for them to escape gang life and "to release anger, aggression and frustration positively, in a non-violent way."
The third section of the film depicts a dance battle called The Battle Zone which takes place between Clowns and Krumpers at the Great Western Forum in 2004. The film style and soundtrack draws creative ties between African dance rituals and the developing style of Krumping.
The film Rize was written and directed by David LaChapelle. Working alongside LaChapelle were executive producers Ishbel Whitaker, Barry Peele, Ellen Jacobson-Clarke, Stavros Merjos, and Rebecca Skinner. Rize focuses on the African-American communities of Clowns and Krumpers in South Central Los Angeles. Most of these dancers are young, poor, and would be classified as "at risk." Director David LaChapelle follows these dancers from rehearsal to Battlezone, an annual dance competition, alternating between footage of the dancing and interviews with the dancers and their families.
The film is set in the outskirts of South Central Los Angeles–areas like Englewood and Compton that have become synonymous in the American popular imagination with deviances of all kinds, due to representations in news media, music, and film. However, LaChapelle does not begin the film in the present day. Focusing instead on the history of racial conflict in South Central, including footage of the Watts riots of 1965 and the 1992 Rodney King riots.
LaChapelle situates his film deliberately within a racially specific violence. The film is dedicated to a dancer named Quinesha (Lil Dimples) Dunford, who was killed with a 13-year old friend in a 2003 drive-by shooting, and not one of the dancers within the film is without a story like Quinesha's to tell.
The documentary features original material by Flii Stylz ("Rize", "I Krump", "Beastly", and "Recognize"), Christina Aguilera ("Soar"), and an entry by UK hip-hop star Dizzee Rascal ("Fix Up, Look Sharp"). The inclusion of a number of traditional gospel songs, such as the Edwin Hawkins Singers' familiar "Oh Happy Day", makes less sense to those who haven't seen the movie, but they're a surprisingly comfortable musical fit, rounding out this compelling, energetic soundtrack.
Rize received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 84% rating based on 91 reviews, with an average rating of 4.0/5. The site’s consensus reads, “ The dances in Rize are electric even if the documentary doesn’t go that deeply into the performers’ lives. Metacritic reports a 74 out of 100 rating based on 29 critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated “the most remarkable thing about Rize is that it is real.” Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune stated that Rize is, “a compelling, bittersweet hybrid of a movie, one celebrating an enormous and hitherto unsung underground talent, while suggesting that art goes only so far in solving the enormous challenges of the underprivileged life.”
Robert Koehler of Variety gave the film an 80 out of 100 and stated that, “Rize is an eye-popping lensing and an appreciation of social complexities combined for an entirely satisfying experience.”Lil' C as himself
Tommy the Clown as himself
Dragon (now called Slayer) as himself
Ceasare "Tight Eyez" Willis as himself
La Niña as herself
Miss Prissy as herself
Wild Boi as himself
Larry as himself
Lil' Mama as herself (not to be confused with the rapper Lil' Mama)
Big Mijo as himself
Baby Tight Eyez as Christian Jones
Daisy as herself
Lil Tommy the Clown (Shannon Hill) as himself
Termite (Shontae Williams)
Awards and nominations
Aspen Short Fest: Best Documentary
Bangkok International Film Festival: Best Documentary
Sundance Film Festival: Short Filmmaking Award