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Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

To Make Fit Again: C.K. Mak’s “The World’s Most Fashionable Prison”

In Documentary, Film on November 13, 2012 at 7:22 am

Guest Contributor Paul B.

Given the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival’s historic penchant for extreme sport videos, the screening of Singaporean C. K. Mak’s recent documentary The World’s Most Fashionable Prison was a pleasant surprise. Even more surprising was that a queer prison-film should turn up in Arizona, a state infamous for its privatized, for-profit prisons and merciless lawmen such as Maricopa County Sheriff Arapaio, whose treatment of inmates has been roundly criticized.

Today, “rehabilitation” has shed its Latin coifs for the much hipper “rehab,” but its migration from penal discourse to addiction says less about a change in alcoholism than in prison policy. Not only are almost 1% of US citizens imprisoned (.78%, to be precise), but purgatorial sentencing, privatized prisons, and a greater than 50% recidivism rate each conspire to keep them there. With few exceptions, rehabilitation has low priority with both public and policy-maker discourse where the bottom line is prison costs.

Though The World’s Most Fashionable Prison doesn’t explicitly address US prison issues, its title invites comparison and discussion of global incarceration, of which the U.S. leads the charge. What does it mean, then, to claim that New Billibid, the largest maximum-security prison in the Phillipines, infamous for its gang wars and violence, is “fashionable”? In an obvious sense, the title refers to the plot. The film follows the flamboyant Filipino fashion designer Puey Quiñones as he teaches inmates how to sew and design clothes for their own fashion show. “Fashionable,” however, also conjures up the innovative, trendy, and unprecedented, and in this sense, the film praises Quiñones’ collaboration with the prison and prisoners as a pioneering exchange that demonstrates the potential of rehabilitation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: “Gotta Dance” and the New Jersey NETsationals

In dance, Documentary, Gotta Dance, Netflix on October 1, 2012 at 10:14 am

Phoebe B.

Last night, in need of a feel-good movie and desperately in the mood for some dance, I put on Gotta Dance. This documentary follows the evolution of the New Jersey Nets’ first seniors hip hop dance team, the NETsationals. It is amazing (and available on Netflix streaming)! Here’s why.

In a culture that highly values youth and normative beauty ideals, and in a profession (that is dance) that disregards those over a certain age, Gotta Dance argues that you can learn to dance and be sexy, fun, and generally badass at any age. As Audrey (a NETsationals dancer) says about turning 60: “Some people think it is all over; it’s not all over. Turning 60 is just the beginning.” After all, as many of the team members remind us, age is just a number. (And, as Deanna reminds viewers, 60 is definitely the new 50.) Everyone on the NETsationals team is over 60, and some team members are even in their 80s. Not everyone knows how to dance, but that doesn’t stop any of them.

Throughout the film, the cast (slash team) talks about aging, beauty, dance, and feeling valuable in a culture that is all about the young. Many feel like the team has given them the chance to show what they’re made of. When they’re performing in front of cheering crowds they feel inspired and valued and totally sexy. Audrey notes that the people she encounters on a daily basis are noticing a change her step: “Audrey you look great. Something’s going on Audrey. And it ain’t sex.” She laughs it off. Since it’s dance! And friends!

Throughout the course of the film, we see the women—and the one man on the team—form close relationships with each other. They go out to dinner and drinks and have pre-game fun times and get nervous together and they rely on each other. And through the team and the friendships they build there, the group gains confidence. This is especially true for Betty, who also goes by Betsy (Betty/Betsy).

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