Hip hop on film

Fab Five Freddy and his crew, Wildstyle

Fab Five Freddy and his crew, Wildstyle

From the time hip hop was an underground phenomenon known only to a few New Yorkers, film has played an important role in recording and propagating this urban subculture. Celebrating the audio-visual side of hip hop culture, the inaugural Hip Hop Film Festival plays in Sydney and Melbourne over 2 consecutive weekends in February and March.

Showcasing the latest in contemporary hip hop cinema, the festival also aims to give some historical perspective on a form that is now more than 2 decades old. Movies like Beat Street and Krush Groove helped bring hip hop to international attention in the mid-1980s, but several smaller-scale New York films pre-date these Hollywood releases, capturing the fashions, graffiti art and personalities of New York’s nascent hip hop scene before it broke across America. One of the earliest films, Wild Style, will screen at the festival. A docu-drama from 1982 directed by Charlie Ahearn, Wild Style features several early hip hop performers including Grandmaster Flash, the Rocksteady Crew and Fab Five Freddy.

In a more contemporary vein the festival will be screening Joslyn Rose Lyons’ recent documentary on ‘underground’ hip hop, Soundz of Spirit. Lyons’ film features interviews with such hip hop luminaries as Michael Franti and members of Outkast and Jurrasic 5. The burgeoning local scene will be examined in 3 Australian documentaries: Sprayed Conflict (directed by Robert Moller), Street Level (Madeleine Hetherton) and All the Ladies (Colleen Hughson).

In presenting works from over 2 decades the festival will trace hip hop’s often controversial history and the political undercurrents that have fuelled the culture on its journey from the streets of New York to MTV screens around the world. RT

2004 Hip Hop Film Festival, Valhalla Cinema, Sydney, Feb 26-28, ACMI, Melbourne, March 4-6, www.hhff.com.au

RealTime issue #59 Feb-March 2004 pg. 44

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1 February 2004