Whatever you do, do not tell Benson Lee you like his breakdancing documentary.
“The term (breakdancing) was something that was coined by the media,” explains the 38-year-old Toronto-born filmmaker. “A lot of people don’t know this but it’s a politically incorrect term. It’s almost like calling Inuit people Eskimos.”
Instead, call it b-boying, as in Planet B-Boy, the title of Lee’s new documentary examining the worldwide resurgence of the dance culture. Showcasing some of the most incredible hip-hop choreography caught on film, Lee also zeroes in on the commercialization of the genre.
“The media has taught us that hip-hop is about guys who are throwing money at you and pimping everything that they own but that’s the music industry’s rendition — that’s what they’ve made every effort to perpetuate.”
With Planet B-Boy, Lee discovers true hip-hop culture is rooted in something much less materialistic. Lee had an interesting source of inspiration for Planet B-Boy: the 1983 movie Flashdance (the first major film to feature b-boys). His interest piqued, Lee hit the Internet and learned of a huge international movement that wasn’t just bringing b-boying back, it was evolving it.
“The b-boys were like the bionic b-boy now,” says Lee. “They came back faster and stronger.”
Leading up to an international b-boy competition, Lee grabbed some cameras and set out to study dance crews from America, France, Japan and Korea all preparing for the elite Battle of the Year.
What he discovered was this youth culture was not only brimming with amazing talent, but they all contradict the bling-obsessed, gangstafied street set we’ve come to associate with hip-hop culture.
“These are some of the most conscious people I know who are community-oriented and politically aware and have a creative means to express that.”