RAIFF 2012 | Prison Dancer

Posted by Kait Bolongaro & filed under Film Festival.

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Prison Dancer

DIR: Romeo Candido | Live Performance & HD | Canada | 2012 | 60 mins | English


Friday, Nov 9th 6:45pm | The Royal

Watch (or re-watch) Byron F. Garcia’s YouTube video of Cebu prisoners dancing to “Thriller,” the inspiration for Romeo Candido’s Prison Dancer, and you realize how necessary Candido’s interactive web musical really is.

After seeing all twelve webisodes of Prison Dancer, “Dancing Inmates of Cebu” seems incomplete, which is no knock on Garcia, since it takes considerable ingenuity to do something as visionary as he did. Garcia adds to his video an eloquent analysis of how prisons must be re-imagined in the public sphere for effective social change, but if his video were considered on its visual impact alone, the message conveyed would be ambivalent at least.

On the one hand, you have what Garcia wants to suggest—that the song “Thriller” offers useful imagery about the consequences about the vilification and societal neglect of prisoners; of how the perceptions of prisons and attitudes about its inmates often breeds worse demons, once they are released, into the social fold. On the other hand, if you consider that, in prison, art as rehabilitation tends to be individualized into personal expressions like paintings or creative writing, watching a video about a choreographed dance with prisoners is slightly off-putting. All the inmates are in their orange uniforms (except for one isolated “female”) and they move in a constructed manner with very little expression on their faces. The choreography and long-angle camera shots then serve to demonstrate how music and dance has been used to control the prisoners rather than allow them an outlet for personal expression. This is where Candido’s web musical comes in.

Prison Dancer is a mockumentary that deploys security camera footage, interviews, and music video direction to show the individual dramas of four prison inmates. The newcomer in Block D is Christian (Mikey Bustos) who has a beautiful, devoted girlfriend (Catherine Ricafort) waiting for him outside. Hookaps (Norman Alconel) is a seasoned hustler who exploits the prison system to his benefit. “Lola” (Jeigh Madjus) choreographs the dance routine, mixing the dance moves with boxing ones to lure in tougher inmates. Then there is “Shakespeare” (played by Nicco Lorenzo) whose quiet suffering contributes one of the more devastating story-lines in Prison Dancer.

With a combination of close-up interviews and high-angle surveillance shots, Prison Dancer emphasizes the individuality of each major character through the most restrictive of costume and set possibilities. Personal expression comes from the dialects of each interviewee, their solos, and even in the way they wear their orange jumpsuit. This film shows how the prisoners use a disciplinary routine to express their dreams, desires, friendships, and love.

On Friday, November 6th, the performers and producers of Prison Dancer will put on a live performance mixed with videos and audience participation. The show will be followed with a a Karaoke Afterparty at The Monarch Festival Hub on 12 Clinton Street. Welcome to Block D.


Schema reviews Romeo Candido’s horror film, The Inheritance (VAFF 2006)

Phuong Nguyen writes from Toronto, ON, where she received an MA in English Literature, qualifying her to write this bio.



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