True story: In fourth grade, a nun gave me and a friend detention for breakdancing, squashing whatever dreams two guilt-stricken Catholic-school twerps may have had of becoming future b-boys. Maybe it was for the best, given how notoriety and financial reward are hard to come by in the world of b-boying, a reality illuminated by Benson Lee’s documentary, which weaves the stories of numerous crews from 18 nations vying in the Battle of the Year championship in Braunschweig, Germany. Lee pays little attention to the roots of breakdancing or how it helped to spread hip-hop worldwide, choosing instead to obsess over the mad skillz of his international subjects. The b-boys’ whirling legs and arms sustain one’s interest, but only Teams Korea and France get ample face time, the former for incorporating its country’s divisive politics into the choreography, and the latter for having a lily-white shortie in its ragtag crew. The flashes of human interest are welcome, but what most sticks is Planet B-Boy‘s aesthetic, which feels jocked from the school of Michael Moore and runs counter to one b-boy’s gripe about breakdancing being co-opted by mainstream America back in the day.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 18, 2008