Gotta Dance, Rock Paper Scissors, and The Nature of Existence

Gotta Dance is a documentary about an experiment the New Jersey Nets (that’s an NBA basketball team) did by forming a hip hop dance team out of senior citizens, with a minimum age of 60. The film shows the initial tryouts, various practices, and some of their actual performances. But even better, it shows the team members and their families in their normal lives, and you get a picture of how the experience is challenging them and changing them.

This was a great documentary, and I thought it was both great fun and often touching as well. I’ll give it 3.5 stars out of 4 stars, and I feel guilty about this, but I might have to rate it higher than the far more important Witch Hunt.

If you don’t want to know anything more, including who makes the team, you should stop reading this review here.

My favorite person in the auditions was Fanny, an 80-year-old Filipino woman who is just adorable. She does make the team. But probably my favorite character turned out to be Betsy, who is an elementary (probably first or second grade) school teacher. She didn’t feel that she could relax enough to do the dancing, so she invented an alter ego named Betty, and she really changed her whole image of herself during the film, allowing herself the freedom to be herself rather than what she thinks people expect of her. Hmmm. Maybe this really is an important film.

The dancer named Claire from the team (the name on her jersey was Blond-E, #62) was at the screening to answer questions. There may be more spoilers below, if a documentary can have spoilers:

  • There are a few other senior NBA dancer groups, but this group is the only one doing hip-hop
  • They are now in their third season, with six of the original dancers (Edie, Dianna, Audrey, Betty/Betsy, Joe, and Claire)
  • There is a DVD coming this summer, and also a theatrical release (at least in San Francisco)
  • The filmmaker had planned to come, but asked Claire to come at the last minute
  • Claire does still do ballroom dance
  • She found out about the auditions from her sister, who agreed to drive her, since Claire didn’t have a car–her sister read about it in a gossip column in the newspaper
  • There is a second man on the team this year (Roger)
  • The filmmaker has done at least two other documentaries
  • The dancers are still in touch with those who are not on the team anymore
  • Claire injured herself and missed part of the season that was shot (2006-7)
  • 35 auditioned the first year, then 60, then around 100 this most recent year

Rock Paper Scissors was my second of three documentaries of the day. I hadn’t initially planned to see it since the Metro newspaper gave it a pretty poor review, but I was hearing much better things about it from others, and it fit my schedule, so I went.

I was surprised that it mostly covered the first few years of the Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) world championship, put on in Toronto by a couple of brothers (Douglas and Graham Walker) who founded the World RPS Society online. These were in 2002, 2003, and 2004, though the 2002 tournament was only covered superficially in retrospect. Some more recent events were covered, but not very thoroughly, as if the filmmaker ran out of money and/or enthusiasm at some point.

Of course RPS is a pretty silly game, so much of the fun was seeing how seriously some people take the game, or sport as they sometimes call it, complete with training and tapering in the final days before a tournament to avoid injuries. Besides the Walker brothers, the film covers a few players in some depth, though to me I never felt like I got a feel for anyone as real people except for the Walkers. I suspect that these aren’t particularly three dimensional people even to their friends, though I could well be wrong.

Overall I did enjoy the film, but I’ll give it only about 2.5 stars out of 4 stars. An earlier showing at Cinequest was the U.S. premiere.

The Nature of Existence was the Cinequest closing night film, and it was the film’s world premiere. Before the film there were the sponsor trailers, the art contest participants, and all of the filmmakers still in town were invited up on stage. And then there were the festival awards, though at the time the audience awards were still being tabulated.

The film is a documentary that talks to a wide variety of people from all around the world about what they think about religion, the meaning of life, and related questions. It was directed by the director of Trekkies, which is a very good documentary about extreme fans of the TV show. This one is more “important,” but perhaps a little less entertaining. I’m not sure that I changed any of my beliefs or perspectives at all, but it was good to both see some different views and some that align with my own. I’ll give the film 3 stars out of 4 stars.

After the film there was a question and answer session with the director and the editor (Paul Tarantino) of the film (there may be spoilers here, if this kind of film can have spoilers):

  • The director said that everyone needs to arrive at their own answers
  • Many of the general questions and categories were pre-determined, but new questions came up during the process
  • Many of the interviews were 2 to 5 hours long, and there was a total of 450 hours of material (wow!)
  • They didn’t really try to balance the male/female ratio up front, but did a little more during editing
  • They started every interview with the biggest question: Why do we exist? And they ended with the question about whether the universe is better for our existence
  • “Making documentaries is a series of missed opportunities”
  • The physicists were the most philosophical
  • Every interview had at least one moment where Paul heard something that he hadn’t thought about that way before

After the Q&A there was a debate between Brother Jed and Steve (Fromstein, I think, who compared God and Jesus to the mafia at one point). It was really more of a series of questions put to Brother Jed than a debate. And at one point Jed said “God is the causeless cause.”

All seen on 3/8/2009 at Cinequest.

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One Response to “Gotta Dance, Rock Paper Scissors, and The Nature of Existence

  1. Final Cinequest 19 Thoughts « Random Musings About Movies, Running, and More Says:

    […] Random Musings About Movies, Running, and More Watch this space… « Gotta Dance, Rock Paper Scissors, and The Nature of Existence […]

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