Directed By Bryan Evans
Starring Billie Jordan, Maynie Thompson, Kara Nelson
Hip hop is not the first dance form that springs to mind when thinking about elderly recreation. Yet for one troupe of New Zealand pensioners, this style may take them all the way to the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas. Under the tutelage of the rather enthusiastic Billie, the group Hip Op-eration (so named due to the prevalence of artificial joints in the troupe), must confront medical and funding issues before this diverse collection of pensioners can have their chance to strut the world stage.
Sometimes a story is so engaging and entertaining that a documentary maker can just step back, and let the events proceed. Here Director Bryan Evans has the good sense to be as unobtrusive as possible. The simplistic presentation doesn’t get in the way at all and places the focus squarely on the story and characters. For this he is amply rewarded, for they are a fascinating bunch. Divas, activists, a perpetually optimistic organiser and a gun-toting nonagenarian are all on display here.
At its heart, Hip Hop-eration is a story of acceptance from both sides of the age gap; a coming together of the young and the old in an appreciation of each other. Hip Operation may not be the greatest fans of the music they pop ‘n lock to, but they are willing to give it a try. Competitive New Zealand dance troupes DZIAH or KRASH may be far more vigorous than Hip Op-eration, but they will cheer their fellow countrymen till they are hoarse. It is heartening to see these expected barriers crumble as both sides communicate and share with each other through the medium of dance.
This is undoubtedly a feel good documentary, there is little effort to explore any of the nuances behind the characters, nor look at how or why they have been swept along in their organiser Billie’s mad dream to take senior citizens to a world hip hop competition. We do learn a little about these people, but besides a few pointed questions obviously designed to provoke an emotional response, it is generally just scratching the surface. Billie herself remains an amusing enigma. We are given a few tantalising glimpses at her motivation, enough to work out some of the basics, but those dots are never joined up. That we never get a clear insight is strange, especially when you consider that this is a woman who’s idea of “maintaining a poker face” consists of rolling around the floor laughing uncontrollably.
In the end, these gaps in knowledge don’t really matter. What we are shown is the power of involvement and community. We may be left with the sense that these senior citizens may not really understand (or even really like) the music that they dance to, but that sense of belonging and the joy of dance are things that are capable of going far beyond a set of tunes.
Hip Hop-eration screens at ECU Joondalup Pines until Sunday, March 22, as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. For tickets and session times, go to perthfestival.com.au.