Monday, August 6, 2012


This isn’t exactly a review of the movie, since I don’t watch enough movies to qualify as even a half decent authority on the subject. Rather, this is a chronicle of a whole chain of thoughts triggered by the film, starring Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman (with a brief but noteworthy appearance by Adam Sevani).

Not usually what I watch, but sometimes, you need to kill time and end up pleasantly surprised.
This is as far as I’ll go about the film’s quality: its dance sequences are excellent, though the climactic sequence takes some time to get the punch of the earlier dances. The story is banally predictable, and the acting nothing special, except maybe when McCormick goes all seductive. So yeah, watch it if you like slick moves, don’t if you’re into good acting and properly developed original plots.

The final dance sequence in the movie, a choreographic feast, not so much a good story.
The aforementioned train of thought emerged because the movie not-very-convincingly posits some chillingly relevant questions about (youth) protest movements and the common man vs. capitalism. (Cough-Occupy-Cough).  In the movie, the dancers use well-choreographed flash mobs to rally public support against a move to develop their neighborhood, only to lose it with one stunt that takes a strident, angry, and militant tone instead.

In many ways, this is what happens when a group that has a grievance with a well-entrenched, more powerful adversary first puts its case forward. Piquing public interest and eventually support is, in liberal democracies, the easiest way for the little guy to stand up to the big bully. The fact is, however, that the public is both very tentative about change, and apathetic when the challenge to authority is posed by a small group with little direct connection to the broader populace.

These two contentions, taken together, seem to suggest that the movement to rally the public must be something people don’t see as threatening or dangerous. The first flash mob against the development fits this perfectly; it is cheeky, sharp and bold,but above all, nonviolent.

Still from the first mob against the development.
  As often happens, many within the movement often get frustrated with the slow pace of change or feel the leadership isn’t going to the core of the problem. Subsequently, they take things into their own hands, feeling a more direct and confrontational approach might be the answer. The next mob uses smoke canisters, more aggressive moves and angry slogans, culminating in a brawl with security and arrests. The developers, having regained public sympathy, get permission to build.

The militant tone of the next mob costs the dancers a lot of support, and leads to a fracture in the movement.
It’s tempting, at this point, to conclude that all protest movements must thus be Gandhi-esque and avoid violence to have a chance of success. But that’s naïve, and not quite right. I believe militant wings of protest movements are a key factor in encouraging entrenched interests to seek a settlement with the moderates. The radicals may or may not shut up (historically, many do), but the demands of the little guy have been largely met, and the opposing public desires for normalcy and justice are satisfied.

Also, it’s healthy for the moderates; they’re forced to ensure they maintain their nimbleness, energy and quality of ideas.

The challenge, then, is for the protest movement to ensure its main face is always a strong moderate, even if the radicals are adept at grabbing headlines. Sure, the Black Panthers received a lot of press, but ultimately, Martin Luther King Jr. knew how to draw public attention to the moderates in the black revolutionaries. As our world is riven by more and more public displays of disaffection, we all hope they learn these lessons, if not necessarily from the film. 

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