“Shake the Dust” is a feature documentary that tells the stories of break-dancers in struggling communities around the globe that, although separated by cultural boundaries and individual struggles, are intrinsically tied to one another through their passion for break-dancing and hip-hop culture and it's use for social change.
Hip-hop culture as a whole, with b-boying as one of its pillars, was born out of the Bronx in the 1970s from people that were underrepresented, impoverished, and surrounded by violence. From its inception, hip-hop was a source of energy, community, strength, expression, and passion. And in the years since its inception, hip-hop has become far more than just a musical genre or style of dance– it has stretched itself across the globe as one of the most influential and trend-setting sub-cultures that exist.
Hip-hop music, through rhythm and poetry, tells a unique story–it balances on a line between party music and prophesy. ”Shake the Dust” is one piece of that story– a story of wildness and grace. A story that seeks to show the beauty of individuals in places like Sana’a, Yemen, Kampala Uganda, and Port au Prince, Haiti. A story that shows how breakdancing– which seems to be transcending even hip-hop itself– ties them together and gives them hope.
The past several years I’ve had the opportunity to travel globally on both personal and professional film and photography projects. Through the course of my travels, I’ve seen a great deal of human suffering. I’ve commuted through the dark streets of Northern Uganda with children that were avoiding abduction at the hands of rebel armies. I’ve seen the atrocities of the Southeast Asian human sex trade. I’ve photographed Burmese refugees and listened to their stories of oppression, sat with North Korean refugees, and spent time in Haiti in the wake of the recent quake.
Paradoxically, I’ve also witnessed great hope and endurance in the midst of such suffering. I’ve seen joy and camaraderie in the face of adversity, and resilience amidst complete uncertainty of survival.
Upon returning from a trip to Uganda in 2006, I exhibited (along with another photographer) a series of images from my time backpacking through this volatile yet beautiful African country. Although the exhibit was relatively well-received, one newspaper article claimed the show “lacked honesty.” Their assertion was that very few of the images seemed to actually represent the reality of the suffering that was happening in Uganda. “Where were the M16’s, the child soldiers, the poverty, disease, despair?”
The honest truth was this: Suffering was indeed there, but it was not the majority of what I found. Many filmmakers enter into a place of crisis, and, with a multitude of motives good and bad, endeavor to capture nothing but agony and despair. Now, I believe there is certainly a place for that. But if that is the only story that is told, then the subjects of our words, photos, and videos, are deprived of their humanity. I believe we are called to empathize with suffering people– not just pity them.
When we are able to glimpse the whole of their experience– to taste their daily life, and seek to understand their culture– we will then begin to truly be moved to compassion for them– because we will not simply be looking at disturbing images– we will be looking at our brothers and sisters who are in peril. People need to see the full truth– both the suffering, and the humanity. This, I believe, will be the catalyst that truly stirs us to action.
“Shake the Dust” uses breakdancing to show commonality and humanity in cultures that are affected by war, disease, and poverty. It seeks to paint a picture of the struggles the characters have– but only as a backdrop to the real story– one of hope and beauty.
Most importantly at this time we are looking for investors and partners that might potentially work with us on post-production, publicity, and distribution. At this time this project has had minimal private funding. Help us tell these kids stories!
Please fill out the form below if you’re interested in helping out.