Inside The Circle
R1 - America - Cinema Libre
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (19th August 2008).
The Film

After “You Got Served” (2004) hit the top of the box office and proved that break-dancing movies could be huge box office success, it’s been a barrage of equally terrible movies based off of cheesy and all too predictable concept of dance crew versus dance crew. But as bad as these have been, they’ve been worth a good laugh so when I received “Inside the Circle” (2007) I braced myself for a laugh and was happily surprised with this well put together documentary on b-boy culture from director Marcy Garriott.

Most of the documentary centers around two friends from Austin, Texas who grew up dancing together, but have recently grown distant as Omar Davila has joined a new crew while Josh Ayers has been in and out of legal trouble. As time goes on, the two talented b-boys meet in competitions with new crews and their lives begin to go separate ways. Omar becomes more Internationally renowned, being flown out to Europe to perform with other All-Stars from the United States while Josh’s crew continues to prepare for the annual Austin dance competition “B-Boy City” run by Romeo Navarro.

The three separate stories are held together particularly well, though the emphasis is more on Josh and Omar, beginning when both are Seniors in high school and continuing as they move more into the real world. Romeo’s struggle to put together the “B-Boy City” competition year after year is a nice addition to the film, representing more of an old-school influence that believes in the ideal of hip-hop in creating non-violence and as a community unifier. He does a great job of turning this into something tangible with the "B-boy City" competition and the turn outs obviously show a large influence, bringing in dance crews from as far as Florida to compete, however the controversy created by making it competitive brings him stress. There are definite coming-of-age elements in the movie that show through with the old friends growing distant and the move from schooling to working for a living. Some of these moments borderline on forced, sometimes feeling out of place from the narrative that has been created, but is otherwise solid.

The low-budget feel of the movie, probably from the fact that it’s a low budget movie, keeps the film from falling into the trap of being too slick, or so fancy that it appears scripted. Garriott’s direction keeps the pace moving at the right rate, a good pace that interweaves the life narratives of these b-boys with the dance competitions that they become involved in. The packaging boasts 3 audience awards from three separate film festivals, including SXSW in Austin in 2007, and it’s acclaim is well deserved. The film is insightful and entertaining, but I would have liked to have heard more from Romeo and the "B-Boy City" festival. The drama between Omar and Josh becomes slightly sidelined for portions of the movie, which is good in terms of not letting it grow stale, but seems over-emphasized on the DVD cover, so I can’t really blame it for that.

Overall, this is a fairly well done documentary into an area that has been over popularized in film lately. I’m a little surprised “Inside the Circle” wasn’t able to find larger distribution considering how popular breakdancing, b-boys or anything even closely related are plastered over everything.

Video

The film is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which seems odd but understandable considering if it was filmed with a standard definition camera, letterboxing it into a widescreen format would run the risk of losing a lot of the dance moves that are on display. Overall, the original video quality isn’t too high, but the transfer looks good all things considered, not very grainy and fairly clean.

Audio

The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and sounds good, again all things considered. Many of the scenes have fairly poppy audio or levels that aren’t quite right when the scene is filmed in a larger dance setting, but when it comes to the interviews everything comes through very clearly and crisply. The music used in the documentary itself is well used for the scenes and sounds good as well, the overall editing keeps the levels intact and everything is fairly audible. Most of the Scenes with lower audio quality also have burned in subtitles to help out.
There are no additional audio or subtitle options on the disc.

Extras

The disc features two featurettes and a few theatrical trailers, below is a brief description.

“B-Boy City Highlights” runs for 30 minutes and 45 seconds. This featurette is a highlight reel of Omar, Josh, Romeo and a huge amount of other people at B-Boy city over the past years. Really good if you’re in the need for some good b-boying, the musical track put over the dances works really well and has good editing and graphics to transition between highlights, very entertaining.

“CROS1: Freestylin’ It” runs for 11 minutes and 14 seconds and this featurette is almost a mini-documentary on another competition in San Diego called “Free Style Session.” This featurette is all about the competition and interviews the organizer CROS1 about the history of the competition and what being a B-Boy means. There’s also clips of Omar and his new crew battling a team from Korea in the 2007 finals.

The theatrical trailer for “Inside the Circle” runs for 1 minute and 59 seconds.

The bonus trailers on the disc are:

- “American Zombie” runs for 1 minute and 15 seconds.
- “Betty Blowtorch and Her Amazing True Life Adventures” runs for 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
- “Música Cubana” runs for 2 minutes and 24 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: A- Overall: B+

 


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