The concept of a nomadic, bohemian lifestyle is undeniably alluring in its defying of conventional ideas of society regarding employment, responsibility, and family in order to create something unique and personal by throwing off the shackles of conformity to pursue that which brings pleasure and, with considerably hard work, incredible rewards. A group which personifies this ideal is the Roc Kidz Crew, a street artist breakdancing troupe who travel the world performing their art, who are the focus of the 2010 Fabian Kimoto-directed documentary. The Rising Sun hits home video on February 5, 2019 and offers an intimate look at the successes and failures of the seemingly indomitable group through personal testimonies, interviews with artists and other dancers, as well as footage they themselves took during their travels.
Unlike other documentaries whose approach is clearly defined and laid out, The Rising Sun shirks off the conventional, selecting to capture the spirit of the group rather than lock it down in something more traditional. Opening with a hilarious and touching series of testimonies from the members themselves as they vie for attention from the camera, playfully pushing, shoving, and jumping on one another, each member talks about what dancing and the Roc Kidz mean to them. Infusing the opening energy with charm and infectious energy, this introduction not only kicks off the documentary in a positive, life-affirming manner, but it also sets the stage for what’s to come. Even as they explain that The Rising Sun means “a journey,” it means “an adventure,” there’s a general awareness that their description isn’t just hyperbole, but a specific POV required to do what they do. As such, The Rising Sun jumps forward and backward through time, presenting each new adventure as quickly as the stream -of-conscious stories seem to present themselves from the various members.
This particular aspect is both inherent to the nature of the Roc Kidz Crew and a touch frustrating from an observational standpoint. Set across an indeterminate period of time, there’s no real anchor for the audience. The opening involves hearing several stories from different members and the audience is well into the film when an informal introduction to each Roc Kidz member is provided. Even then, each member’s home country is made clearer than their names are. Finally, MC and group member Massimo introduces them one-by-one to the street audience they’ve gathered. It’s unclear if this is by design or an accidental error resulting from a focus on bottling the spirit of the group, but without a real tether to who these people are and focusing solely on their dancing, the audience finds it more difficult to engage. As interesting as the stories become, especially as each one seems to highlight a different member of the team and offers insights into their personal perspective into dance as well as this nomadic lifestyle, without some kind of cohesive narrative, the whole of The Rising Sun seems like a highlight reel than an informative documentary.
Strangely, even without a strong narrative within The Rising Sun, it is absolutely bewitching. Hearing stories of the dedication each team members has to their craft combined with watching them practice, you can’t help but root for them. Whether it’s working through routines down to the millimeter in 104-degree heat or hearing how they break down individual responsibilities among the group, it’s clear that these aren’t just lie abouts seeking a means of doing the least amount of work to get by. These are athletes with immense drive and dedication to their craft. They are artists willing to sacrifice every waking moment, as well as endure incredible injury, if it means getting to do what they love. Though the film does offer insight into their 18-month Streetshow Tour, the fact that it also jumps around – sometimes even using footage from what might be the same shows over and again – merely highlights just how hard they push themselves as athlete performers time and again just for the chance to dance. The structure of The Rising Sun follows a similar narrative structure as their real lives, caught in a constant loop of travel, rehearsal, and performance, untethered to time or location in any way other than how it gives them a chance to dance. Moving from place to place sounds exotic, yet, even as it offers them the ability to work when they want and play when they want, this lack of anchor outside of their performative lives is a burden, one that bears incredible fruit as they’ve journeyed from mere street performances to selling out shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The Roc Kidz Crew may not be an organization you’ll know by name, but those in the international breakdancing community certainly do, in full recognition of the impact the Roc Kidz created. Because we are given a glimpse not just into their performances, but into how hard they work to prepare and are provided some insight into their philosophy regarding dance, there’s not a moment that feels disingenuous or a moment where you won’t find yourself rooting for them.
As atypical a documentary as the Roc Kidz are themselves, The Rising Sun doesn’t examine so much as it presents. It doesn’t pass judgement or try to persuade, it merely offers a glimpse into the lives of a group of performers you may have seen on YouTube, on TV, in video games, or on the street. If you take anything away from the myriad of peer testimonies and troupe footage, it’s the notion that the whole world is a stage upon which they can dance. There’s something lovely about this notion that through persistent focus and teamwork, all things are possible. There’s truly a zen-like peacefulness to their bohemian existence, a connectedness of spirit which translates not just from the words they say or from what we see, but from the way they move, all together, in rhythmic harmony.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD February 5, 2019.
No extras are offered in the DVD format.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.