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Review: Shake The Dust

BY GINA COETZEE

A film with the potential to change the perceptions of third world countries that are mostly defined by their wrongs... Shake the Dust is a refreshing and empowering documentary that uses hip-hop to convey a humanitarian story.

American Based director-photographer Adam Sjöberg collaborated with rap superstar Nasir “Nas” Jones, to create this refreshing story of hope and joy in countries that are often flooded with negative media attention. They aimed to tell the stories of youths that use hip-hop and breakdancing to bring social change in their communities. Sjöberg’s film follows the lives of aspiring young break-dancers in Uganda, Yemen, Colombia and Cambodia, as they explain the story of hip-hop and breakdancing. Through these youngsters’ eyes you begin to understand that hip hop and breakdancing is not merely a culture or music genre, but ultimately a lifestyle. Shake the Dust is an amazing story about breakdancing and hip-hop in the most unusual communities around the world.

Shake the Dust is simply a story that needed to be told. A holistic picture is portrayed of countries that are too often portrayed as drug ridden, poverty stricken and confronted with conflict. No stranger to globetrotting - his passport is filled with stamps from at least 60 countries from his travels around the world documenting conflict; natural disasters and suffering -  Sjöberg lived in the communities of the breakdancing youngsters and discovered their untold stories. Stories of dealing with loss at a young age and being tempted by a life of crime and drugs in order to survive, however, these youngsters chose breakdancing and hip-hop as a vehicle of change in their respective community. Moreover, it tells the story of those who aren’t just trying to survive in this harsh world, but of those who are fighting for their voice to be heard.

The use of authentic hip-hop music originating from these countries creates an atmosphere that draws the audience further into the film. In addition, the exquisite cinematography is used to assist in capturing the heart of the story. Although a remarkable story of hope, Shake the Dust might have been a case of biting off too much than a viewer can actually handle. The film runs for 85 minutes, following multiple personal stories in four different countries; each story is captivating but by the end you may be left with the feeling ‘information overload’. The stories and personal accounts must have been hugely overwhelming for the director, but Sjöberg succeeded in selecting appropriate portions of it.

This is not only for hip-hop fans, it is a film for everyone, and it is a film for the compassionate souls. It takes you through a journey of uncovering humanity, making it impossible not to leave film theatre feeling encouraged, uplifted, your perceptions might even start changing perception. Shake the Dust highlights the possibilities using music as vehicle for social change. It speaks of the community-ness of breakdancing, where you are not just in a crew but part of life.

Gina Coetzee is South African born adventurer who is passionate about the traveling, the uniqueness of culture and living beyond the comforts of the known.

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Twitter Handle: @gina_coetzee

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The 36th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter) with support from the National Film and Video Foundation, , KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, Gauteng Film Commission, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.

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