First of all, I’d like to shamelessly say, I love old people. I think this love stems from somewhere between the childhood memories of my grandmother’s cranberry bread and the scene in Titanic where the elderly couple cuddles their way into apparent death. Even the old folks that frequent The Oriental Theatre delight me: holiday sweaters, flea market shoes, and the slight stench of judgement over the youngsters that couldn’t possibly achieve the same intellectual stimulation from the film as they, themselves, did. They’re just so damn cheeky.
Besides the occasional polka or ballroom dance, I didn’t think that the beloved elderly population in the world got, uh, down and dirty with their “moves”. What do they do with their canes and walkers? What if they rip a hole in their fifty-cent pantyhose from Walgreens? There’s nothing more frightening than a hip-replacement gyration. With Hip Hop-eration, everything I thought I knew about my cherished, adorably frail age group was shot out the window.
Bryn Evan’s Hip Hop-eration (2014) showed Friday afternoon at the Oriental Theatre as part of the Documentary Festival Favorites series presented by Christine Symchych and Jim McNulty. It focuses around a New Zealand hip hop crew trying desperately to make it to the worldwide hip-hop dance competition in Las Vegas. The kicker? The dancers range from 68 to 95.
My initial thought heading into the film was, How in the hell do people that… ripened… do hip-hop? This has to be two hours of endless struggling. Turns out, there’s much more to the men and women of “Hip Op-eration” than their eagerness to try something new. This group is compromised mostly of women, most of whom have lost their husbands and have turned to the crew for something to look forward to: friends. These hilarious Kiwis come from all walks of life – from cross-country peace walkers to opera singers. They possess different quirks and personalities that make their performances lively and colorful, despite the obvious lack of motor skills.
Don’t get me wrong, these folks can break it down. Dance troupe manager Billie Jordan makes sure of it. She doesn’t give up on the crew, even through their medical mishaps and weak knees. She answers the question: Can you “crump” in a wheelchair?
The stories behind each of the dancers are really what makes the film. Most memorable is Maynie Thompson, 95, who has been involves in many peace marches and protests against nuclear testing. Being the oldest member of the crew, she certainly has the youngest personality. She recalls smoking weed once with a gay man and remembering feeling “sexy”. She remarks not being able to share that sexiness with the man she was smoking with, because “what would he do about it?” Not to mention, her hip-hop name is “Quicksilver”.
This is not by any means a documentary that makes you think deeply about the meaning of life. But, it certainly makes you think about family. I wanted terribly to call up my 87-year-old grandmother and chat about life afterwards, but I knew it was her dinner time around the time the film let out. The film is a reminder that age really is just a number. You can do whatever the hell you want in your future, even after your inevitable hip replacement.
I strongly suggest making time to see one of the other three screenings of Hip Hop-eration at this years Milwaukee Film Festival. Use it as a cheerful break from the more serious films in your line-up, as well as an excuse to call your mother or grandmother.
Hip Hop-eration is playing again Sunday Sept 27 at 4:00 p.m. at Fox Bay, Tuesday Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at The Avalon Theatre, and Monday Oct 1 at 1:00 p.m. at The Oriental Theate.