This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 28th September 2014
Regardless of your age or musical inclinations, this unashamedly feel-good local documentary will have you tapping your toes and whooping for joy.
Hip Hop-eration charts the delightful true story of a group of pensioners from Waiheke Island whose goal is to perform at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas. Ranging in age from 65 to a laudable 94, the crew don hoodies and chains, learn some moves and start rehearsing. Inspired and led by the irrepressible Billie Jordan (whose affection for the elderly is touchingly portrayed throughout), our plucky geriatrics are determined to challenge prejudices – their own (“It doesn’t have much of a beat, does it?” laments one dignified ex-musical performer) and the audience’s (this is a world where the wheelchair-bound krumper gets centre stage).
There are inevitable comparisons to the similarly heartwarming Young @ Heart which saw a choir of American senior citizens visiting prisons to share their renditions of modern day songs by Radiohead, Coldplay and the like. Here, too, our forebears embrace the music of the youth of today, and much of the humour necessarily derives from this unexpected crossing of generational boundaries. But the journey goes in both directions – when the reigning national champions from Otara jump on a ferry across the harbour to cheer on their fellow participants, the instant connection is incredibly affecting.
It’s not all fun and games (although, OK, there’s a lot of that). Writer/director Bryn Evans captures the essence of our “characters” by hearing about their lives and back-stories pre-Waiheke. There’s Maynie “Quick Silver” who peace-marched across American during the Vietnam War, and Terri “Two Cents” who speaks passionately about life with her husband of many decades. The film almost doubles as a gentle history lesson, full of personal tales of bygone days and old-world attitudes.
But it’s when the fluoro legwarmers are unfurled and the hoodies zipped up that the excitement peaks. With a sensational local soundtrack and its subjects’ infectious charm, Hip Hop-eration runs you through the gamut of emotions and leaves you feeling on top of the world.