'Planet B-Boy' Lands in Philly

October 16, 2008

I missed "Planet B-Boy" at the New York Asian American
International Film Festival in July, and I was excited to have another
chance to attend a screening in Philly. I'd heard some buzz about the
documentary but I had no idea that the film was such a hit until I saw
the length of both the waitlist and standby list for the Philly
festival's screening. Still, I didn't expect to be sitting on the edge of
my seat for the majority of the film.

As an introduction, through interviews with old school hip-hop
guys, "Planet B-Boy" starts with a lesson on the four traditional
elements of hip-hop: DJs, B-boys (breakdancers), MCs, and graffiti
artists, each with their own form of self-expression.

Then we meet B-boy crews from all over the world competing in the
Battle of the Year, an event held in Germany where the most innovative
and skilled B-boys face off for about €3,000, but more so for the
recognition that comes with the award.

The film focused on the previous year's champs, the Gamblerz
of Korea, as well as Ichigeki of Japan, a new Korean B-boy crew called
Last for One, Knucklehead Zoo from Las Vegas, and a French crew called
Phase-T.  It pulled together stunning footage of each crew at the
Battle of the Year that left me amazed at their skill, almost to the
point of bewilderment.

Among the 350 hours of raw footage Benson Lee shot, there were tons
of moving, personal stories to sort through. One was of a 12-year-old
white kid in France breaking with a crew of 6-foot-tall black guys and
the reaction of his admittedly racist mother. Another involved a
Japanese B-boy who worked at a tea shop with his mother and brother who
were actually supportive of his breakdancing.

But the most heartwarming story was that of a Korean B-boy raised
by a single father who made a meager social work wage giving away
Korean flags for people to hang in their homes. At first, his father
didn't understand why he'd devote his life to what some would consider
polishing the floor with their backs instead of a career that most
Asian parents would be proud of. While at first there was a disconnect
between the B-boy and his dad, the father-son bond was sealed through
pride in their work, pride in their country and a better understanding
of the meaning behind the art form.

As the crews gathered from all over the world for the Battle
of the Year in Germany, it was clear that despite language barriers,
there was plenty of communication going on with looks, with facial
expressions and with their moves.  As each crew performs, you see
Asians, who've admired and embraced a once all-American phenomenon,
making hip-hop culture their own.

This blog entry is graciously sponsored by Toyota Matrix. Check out their website dedicated to the best in Asian American film.

Toyota Matrix


Melissa Hung

Founding Editor

Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. A native Texan, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.



fyi, "planet b-boy" dvd will be released on dvd in november. buy it!