Do you need another rap film?

Not, “Do you want another rap?”, but two documentaries on Hip Hop, with a similar focus, set in the same country, Uganda. Which for me, makes the differences in their presentation style all the more startling.

This first one “Diamonds in the Rough” (extended trailer above) is pretty much in the style of the mid-90’s “underground” Hip Hop documentary, which has it’s own set of conventions but tends to portray fairly straight forward the perspectives of its subjects. I always thought films like this where the director had to engage with the situation in a more immersed experience were a valuable peek into the inner workings of a scene or a culture.

The second one, Red Bull sponsored “Bouncing Cats” (trailer below and screening at NYU this Thursday) is in a more high budget, made for prime-time television feel good (feel bad?) story, style.

The doc is meant to spread awareness of a situation the audience might not be familiar with. But, I can’t help but question if the participation of celebrities and the foregrounding of stories of human tragedy diffuses the attempts at trying to make a connection to the lived experience of the subjects. For me it’s a distancing experience that can reinforce a marginalization of the subject culture from both perspectives.

The need to present the story in this way isn’t really the fault of the director. In our High Definition culture, the general public usually needs to have a little flash and drama to pay attention. Plus you gotta sell DVD’s! So I have to ask, do we really need these things to tell these stories?–Chief Boima



Boima Tucker

Chief Boima is a Sierra Leonean-American music producer, DJ and writer. He is also the managing editor, podcast host, and music section editor of Africa is a Country.

  1. I'm curious to find "Diamonds in the Rough" and do a comparison with a film like "Democracy in Dakar", do you know of other African examples of this style?

    In seeing the trailers here, what stands out to me here is the utilization of what Mamdani calls "pornography of violence". Bouncing Cats is looking to capitalize on these images and this storyline, needing to show the mutilated bodies to reach a certain global audience that had been brought up on these images. Beyond that is the savior complex, the need for hip-hop (and its practitioners) to be the one thing that is "beyond the suffering"; this narrative lacks complexity and ignores the realities.

    1. I think it's important to see the movies first, and then judge the movies. Trailers are built to sell the product so blame the marketing team first, but see the moive then say whether it bad or not and then blame,or praise the production. In response to Eric R if you understand the forms of hip hop not just the commercial respresentation of it, you'd look past each film extiorior to see that they're both saying the same thing in their trailers "I'm using the art form of hip hop to speak about my conditions";not "It's my Western savior from my conditions". One shows rappers who speak their expression, and the other shows b-boy and b-girls who dance their expression. In Bouncing cat some rap Celebs are in the film yes and maybe you could loose a few, but there's actually a living legend/one of the originators b-boying in the film ("Crazy legs") teaching youth to dance. I think he's needed because he created an art form from nothing and in what he thought were poor conditions so him seeing a different type of "poor" living conditions is supposed to be part of the story. As far as the a "pornography of violence" of each film;one shows missing limbs and the other someone shooting a gun/ many guns. In part it's a reflection of movies about the culture of hip hop and it's "Real and Raw" esthetic. The real question is for who was each film intended,and beyond the average viewers how do the Ugandans in the films feel they and their country are being portayed? Out of respect for global black culture I'll see both if I can and make my decision then!

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