RIZE

Being a photographer, I decided to check out the work of another, David LaChapelle. You’re probably familiar with his photographs. They are known for their loud color and bold content. He doesn’t tiptoe around. He says what he’s there to say. However in his documentary RIZE you see a less confident artist.


RIZE is a documentary about a group of adolescents in South Central Los Angeles who are inspired to turn from gangs and more sordid behavior by a “krumping” (a dance style) clown named Tommy. If you are expecting the bright saturated photography of LaChapelle to cross over into video you will be disappointed. The video is a much more raw unpolished experience. Only in a few of the more planned shots of the teens dancing do you see footage that comes close to his photography. The rest of the cinematography isn’t bad, it’s just much more raw.

LaChapelle has a great story in his hands and I think he had all the right footage to create a compelling documentary but it never quite happened. I really feel like this movie was lost on the editing floor. There are a few really climatic events that are used at really poor times. The dance competition, for example, is found in the middle of the film. I instinctively felt like it should have been more of an ending piece and could have really left the viewer on a high note. I think he makes the mistake of thinking that a documentary should be chronological and thus he fails to capitalize of the power of the high moments in the people’s lives. All the character development is there. Emotional content is there. He captured everything. It’s just in the wrong order.

I think it’s really an interesting documentary to watch as a photographer because more and more I think photographers are going to be expected to do video and video is a very different medium when it comes to storytelling.

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