programming where dancers of Filipino, Korean and Japanese descent
dominate in domestic
and international battles. Those on the margins of Asian/America are
typically (and regretfully) absent from these narratives, but filmmaker
Christopher Woon seeks to rectify this with the documentary Among B-Boys.
The film travels from Fresno, CA to Tulsa, OK to follow Hmong American
break dancers as they pursue their craft in the midst of obstacles such
as disapproving parents or living in regions with paltry dance scenes.
Some structural and pacing issues leave the individual breakers (twin
brothers Impact and Vlln from Sacramento, CA and Sukie who hails from
Fresno but moves to Tulsa for financial reasons) and their
character arcs needing a little more time to gel, but the film succeeds
in capturing the influential presence of hip hop and b-boying in a
generation of young Hmong Americans.
The children of CIA-trained
soldiers who fought in the Secret War in Laos and fled Southeast Asia
with their families as refugees, many Hmong Americans -- including those
who turn their living rooms and garagaes into makeshift dance spaces --
struggle with feelings of geographical and cultural transience. Some
have found a permanent home in hip hop and watching them top rock and
windmill in Among B-Boys makes you glad they did.
[Full Disclosure: Hyphen's Features Editor Momo Chang is a juror for this year's documentary selection at SFIAAFF.]