Critics' Pick

Shake the Dust (NR)

By Alan Scherstuhl
"It's a culture that gives you hope," says Don Popo, a Colombian rapper and youth organizer. He's talking about hip-hop, of course, and the sunny, funky, inspiring doc Shake the Dust backs him up with beats and sweat and whirling motion. A round-the-globe survey of breakdancing street kids, the film roams from Popo's Bogotá — where we meet, among others, B-girl Tibisay, a pre-adolescent who whips about the sidewalk like a top her great-grandma might have spun — to Yemeni dust pits and Phnom Penh street corners, where we meet B-boy Slick, a young man who tells us, "I want to be the best in Cambodia at headspins." Slick shows us how he's progressing toward that goal, and it's hard to imagine anyone's going to best him.

The film is a breezy joy, even when the kids describe lives on the margins -- they might not have much, but they have the beat, the dance, the love and camaraderie of their crews, the sense of connection with B-boys and -girls around the world. Several dancers testify that breaking has kept them from gangs and crime; the others credit their triumphs in the cypher with imbuing confidence, self-respect, a place in this world. Nas served as a producer, and watching Tibisay throw down as we hear his uplift-the-youth anthem "I Know I Can" is as moving as it is delightful. Even the dopey pulse of "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" sounds like a global revolution on a Bogotá street, and when Iraqi dancer Mohamed lugs his boombox and dance pad atop a mountain and into an ancient Yemeni city, you see that hope Popo talked about in full, wild bloom.
Adam Sjöberg

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