Thursday, May 2, 2019

Day 9 Tribeca 2019: 'Lil' Buck': Real Swan: A Dancer's Graceful Rise Onto World Stages From the Concrete Surfaces of Memphis

"Lil' Buck: Real Swan" tracks the journey of Charles “Lil Buck” Riley from jookin in the skating rink to the streets of Memphis to world stages.

BY VW

WATCHING
"Lil' Buck: Real Swan," I am inexorably assailed by the sad, sad truth that so many talented people in underserved communities live regretful lives of dreams deferred simply because they don't have opportunities.

Many of them have the drive, talent, discipline, grit, sticktoittiveness. What they lack are opportunities. They don't know anyone, hence their lives lived far below their potential.

Luckily for the world of dance - and one suspects a number of other youths in the Memphis, Tennessee area and beyond - this did not happen to Charles “Lil Buck” Riley. The young dancer is the subject of Louis Wallecan's documentary, which is having its world premiere run at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. The last screening is tomorrow evening.

"Lil' Buck: Real Swan" is intensely engaging from the start. LW lets the camera roll and allows his subjects to speak their truth about jookin, the danceform that contributed to Lil' Swan's ascendancy. There is much context here. Basile Belkhiri's razor-sharp editing is responsible for the film's strong, cohesive narrative.

Jookin started among street kids and kids from very troubled families in a Memphis skating rink. When the rink shuttered, the dancers took it to the streets and parking lots. Just about any space with a pavement - usually concrete - that allowed the dancers to hone and perfect their moves.

Jookin is a series of complex dance moves that put most of the focus on the feet. They are moving as if on air. The fluidity of movement is all the more impressive because the surface is not sleek; pebbles might even be involved. For many of the practitioners, jookin evolved as a way to stay out of trouble. To stay out of gangs. To stay alive.

Lil' Buck was introduced to this culture and soon his extraordinary talents were evident. He brought something different - namely a flexibility. For instance, the ability to invert his ankles (ouch!). Lil Buck's mother moved the family from Chicago and was not only determined to keep him out of trouble, she wanted him to succeed, per his dreams. Placing him in a performing arts school was a savvy move. There, he would come to the attention of people from the Memphis' ballet company.

Margo Robbie and Finn Cole in "Dreamland. The film will have its final world premiere screening at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, 4 May.

They saw the talent, drive, discipline. A talent that needed harnessing to combine the various dance style into a cohesive whole. His performance of "The Swan," would bring him to the notice of Yo-Yo Ma, former child prodigy himself. The dynamic duo performed it together in Beijing; the video went viral. And so did Lil' Buck's dancing career.

LW could have ended "Lil' Buck: Real Swan" with the thunderous standing ovation following that performance of "The Swan" with YYM. It would have been a good way to end the film, for the performance is achingly beautiful, graceful, powerful, effortless, transportive. Ethereal. Breathtaking.

It will bring tears to the eyes of some viewers. Incidentally, the most touching moment comes during that performance. BB does a cutaway, then there is applause. Then, he returns to the performance for the ovation to come and Lil' Buck's final bow. Extraordinary stuff.

Instead of having a good ending, though, "Lil' Buck: Real Swan" has a great ending. Leading up to it is a scene with Lil' Buck teaching the next generation. The actual ending - a long, panoramic frame that provides the stage for a final dance - is the coup de coeur.

Be prepared to vigorously applaud.

Other screenings and events on today's schedule: "Dreamland" VIRTUAL ARCADE Tribeca CINEMA360 "I AM HUMAN" "Seahorse" "Clementine" "Shorts: Life Preserver" "Rewind" "Plus 1" "House of Hummingbird" "Gully" "XY Chelsea" "Maiden" "Only" "Vida" "For They Know Not What They Do" "Making Waves" "Gay Chorus Deep South" "Luce"

IMAGES FROM DAY 8

Tribeca Talks: Storytellers - Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones discusses her career and her famous father, Quincy, with Hasan Minhaj during a "Tribeca Talks: Storytellers" series. Photo by Nicholas Hunt for the Tribeca Film Festival.

Tuca & Bertie

Tiffany Haddish discusses her new Netflix series, Tuca & Bertie. Video courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival to learn more about the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

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