Benson Lee's Planet B-Boy

March 12, 2008


And what better way to prove this than a b-boy battle?

Benson Lee's "Planet B-Boy'' will be playing at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival March 18. It's already sold out, but you can always stand in line the day of to try to get tix.

BUT the great thing for us Bay Area folks is that if you miss the film at SFIAAFF, you can still catch it on the big screen. It opens on Friday, March 28 in Berkeley at the Shattuck Landmark and in SF (venue TBA).

The film is pretty awesome. Think a cross between Rize and Air Guitar Nation.

It focuses on an international b-boy competition called "Battle of the Year.'' Teams from France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Korea, Thailand, South Africa, Taiwan, and others, get to display their own unique styles of breakdancing.

I had no idea how awesome the Japanese and S. Korean teams are.

And Lee's got a great eye for cinematography. B-boys do their thing with beautiful scenes in the background - the Eiffel Tower, inside a Japanese subway, in front of a Buddhist temple.

In fact, my partner told me he's seen clips from this film on YouTube, like this one, focusing on a S. Korean team filmed at the DMZ. It's called "Run DMZ.'' Clever, eh? The scene is awesome and is pretty representative of the film as a whole.

Lee, who is Korean American, could've just made a film about the b-boys and their quest for 1st place in the competition, and it would've been popular.

But he takes it to another level, telling some of their stories that I think only an Asian or Asian American director could've drawn out and told with sensitivity. One focuses on the father/son relationship between a young Korean b-boy and his stoic father. Another focuses on a Japanese b-boy whose father passed away and whose supportive mother begins to understand his lifestyle.

Like the dance, the themes in the film are universal - that love, acceptance, self-respect, comraderie, and culture are all needed to survive and thrive in this world.

Check out the SFIAAFF, which runs March 13-23 in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose, guide here.

This entry is graciously sponsored by Toyota Matrix.


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



you can also listen to Hard Knock Radio's segment on Benson Lee and Planet B-Boy and other SFIAAFF films here.
I just saw Planet B-Boy and agree that it was fantastic. It's one of the best documentaries I've seen in a while, especially after taking into consideration what Benson Lee said during the Q&A about their limited budget. Not only was I impressed with the production quality, but I had a killer time watching it in the theater too, as it showcased some amazing dancing and told some really captivating stories.I have one question for you, however. You said, "But he takes it to another level, telling some of their stories that I think only an Asian or Asian American director could've drawn out and told with sensitivity." The background stories of several of the b-boys in the film primarily dealt with boys who came from troubled pasts (in one way or another) and their deep desire to make their parents proud through their dancing. I think that one of the most poignant lessons that this taught was that all of us, as Americans, could relate to the family situations of these men who live on the opposite side of the world, taking the lens on the unifying qualities of b-boying to the macro level. I am not sure how telling the story of men struggling to prove themselves as talented artists and working to make their families proud could only have been told sensitively by an Asian or Asian-American director? That statement kind of struck me as being contradictory towards one of the main messages of the film -- that people from all different backgrounds do share similar experiences and can relate to each other more than what might be expected when judging from superficial qualities.
hi kj,glad you got to see the film!i guess my point was that i think Benson Lee, as a Korean American male, may have had some perspective and insight because of his own background, which in turn helped with the interviews and the film, particularly with the Asian b-boys and their families.i remember three of the stories - the young boy from France, the Japanese guy, and the S. Korean guy. i thought the two more compelling stories were the Japanese and Korean guys, but maybe i'm biased. :)i do see your point though - someone else could have drawn out those stories too. but i believe Lee's own background helped in some way. also, another director may have not chosen to focus on those stories. i don't know, though, since i've never talked to Benson Lee and i don't know what the interview/selection/editing process was like.
update: i wrote in the post that Planet B-Boy opens at Landmark Theatres in Berkeley and SF this month (which is true), but i failed to note that it is also showing in theatres in several other locations, including NYC and LA beginnning TODAY!(thanks to's post for the reminder):SCREENING DATES & LOCATIONSMarch 21stNYC - Landmark SunshineLA - Landmark NuartMarch 28thSF - Landmark LumiereBerkeley - Landmark ShattuckSan Diego - Landmark KenDC - Landmark E StreetApril 4thBoston - Landmark Kendall SquareAustin - Landmark DobieChicago - Landmark Century CentrePlanet B-Boy
just saw this tonight over at berkeley. wow. really enjoyed it. i would've liked to see more interviews with phase-t. maybe family interviews with some of the other kids in the group. but definitely nicely done. beginning, middle, climax. it was all there. definitely check it out if you can make it to any one of those screenings!