Turf Nation is a well-made documentary short film, that gives insight into the roots of the American Oakland-born dance form- Turfing, and also highlights serious social issues.
Turf Nation is narrated by Lavish and his group of friends and fellow-dancers. The style of dance is mostly explained through performances from members of the group. We learn that Turfing combines elements of tutting, gliding and bone breaking, with moves that will leave you saying “wow!”. We follow the group of dancers to where they make their daily income- the streets of the Bay Area and the tunnels and train cars of BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit).
One of the dancers explains that whist he has goals to be on tour or overseas doing shows, performing on trains is a creative outlet and platform to showcase his talent.
Later we see that these dancers also work in music videos, with some being featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live and America’s Got Talent. This documentary illustrates how these young men have created their own enterprise, found work for themselves and have made a business out of their talent. Moreover, it becomes evident they have done this despite the difficulties of coming from a low-economic background and having to deal with a lifetime of prejudices.
This is shown in the scene where Lavish and Zel talk about their history with the Police, saying “It’s not that we do illegal shit, they do illegal shit to us, ‘cause we don’t fuck with them”. The dancer’s then go on to say “you know what the cop did when he arrested us? He said ‘YES! We got three of them’…He said it like he shot a three-pointer”.
This documentary also challenges the classism linked to dance as an elitist sport. “We have changed the narrative of what it takes to be a dancer” says Lavish. It is evident that these young dancers have talent but they also put in the hours of hard work. “We created our own way, our own path”, says Lavish, “there are no limits to anything you want to do… you can start off with nothing…anything is possible.”
As well as having an important story and powerful themes, this documentary is very well made and of excellent quality. Great camera work is used to follow and capture the continuously moving dancers as they travel through the streets and onto the trains.
The soundtrack is cool and relevant to the subject matter, and the choreography does not disappoint. In fact, the dancers are consistently moving throughout as if they can’t stop for the love of it, which nicely captures the main premise of the documentary. This is exciting work form director Jun Bae.
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