From YouTube to the big screen, Filipino prisoners dance to fame

 

More than 1500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center perform Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance in celebration of a religious festival in Cebu City central Philippines. Credit: Reuters
More than 1500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center performed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance in celebration of a religious festival in Cebu City central Philippines.
Credit: Reuters

They first gained fame on YouTube, dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Now, the orange-uniformed men at a central Philippine jail make their big screen debut in a movie about prison reforms.

The 98-minute movie, “Dance of the Steel Bars,” was shot at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, with 750 prisoners forming the backdrop to a story about an American wrongly accused of murder and the bond he forms with a fellow inmate with a talent for dance.

“This film talks about redemption, about brotherhood,” Cesar Apolinario, a television journalist and the film’s co-director, told Reuters. “I did not only see them as brilliant dancers, but they are actually brilliant actors.”

The plot revolves around the real-life reforms carried out in the Cebu jail, where a security adviser introduced daily dance routines in 2007 to instill discipline and camaraderie.

The film was screened inside the Cebu jail on June 7.

“I’m thrilled to see it. And my family will be happy to see the film,” said one of the inmates, Macario Sambarihan.

The fast-paced movie features fight scenes portraying gang wars, common in crowded Philippine prisons, juxtaposed with dance sequences in the jail courtyard familiar to millions who have viewed the inmates’ Michael Jackson tributes.

“We did not simplify the steps for them,” said Los Angeles-based dancer Cindera Che, who choreographed four dance sequences. “We want them to rise up, to our level. And they did.”

The producers are betting on the inmates’ Internet fame for the project’s commercial success. The prisoners’ dance on YouTube has been viewed by more than 40 million people, said Stu Higton, executive producer of Dubai-based Portfolio Films International.

“Dance of the Steel Bars” opened in the Philippines on Wednesday and will be distributed in Asia, the Middle East and the United States.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

National

New Hampshire moves to decriminalize adultery

For the first time in hundreds of years, it's about to be legal to cheat on your spouse in New Hampshire.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Movies

Review: 'Fading Gigolo' finds few jokes in women…

John Turturro writes, directs and stars in "Fading Gigolo," in which he plays a prostitute whose pimp is Woody Allen. And there's still very few jokes.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.