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Keeping It Real

Vancouver International Hip Hop Video Festival

By Adam Thomas

Thursday September 15, 2005

Anyone who thinks Hip Hop is about the bling and pimped out rides is right. But, somewhere deep below the diamond grill is more. Hip Hop is a lifestyle, aesthetic, cultural zeitgeist and economic combine harvester. Internationally, the music and methods of Hip Hop undeniably reflect the need for creative and political evolution.

Returning to Vancouver after having toured the festival across Canada, the 2nd annual Vancouver International Hip Hop Film Festival has become a more focused effort. This years festival offers an international line up of documentary and feature films from Israel, Japan, South Africa, Canada, Kenya and Cuba.

Festival director Karl St-Victor hopes to afford audiences an opportunity to experience and explore the diverse nature of a musical and cultural movement that has developed all over the globe. With plans to take the festival to Johannesburg, Mexico and Europe, the VIHF’05 offers a unique chance to see a rich and sensitive collection of films. Each piece attempts to bring a linear sense of historical and cultural value to a revolution and music so normally typified in the mainstream by gangstas and thugs. For a city which desperately clings to the tried and true aesthetics of its mainstream, this is a chance to see the realities of a lifestyle distorted by BET.

With Director Kurt Orderson in town for the screening, this South African — Canadian co-production of Definition of Freedom is a must see. Charting the development of Hip Hop in South Africa beginning during Apartheid, the film offers a powerful look at the transition of musical development that mirrors the experience of the culture in the U.S. Featuring interviews and documentary footage of South African pioneers, the film channels the frustration and violent struggles of black South Africans finding their voice in the past, present and future.

Also in town to present his documentary film La Fabri_k (the Factory) is director Lisandro PerezRey. The film follows the lives of two groups in Havana as they develop their skills and help foster a musical revolution in Castro’s Cuba. Collectively known as “La Fabri_k”, the groups’ popularity grows and leads them to tour the U.S. culminating with their performance at the Apollo theatre in Harlem. Here they must face the seductive nature of capitalism as it flies in direct contrast with the roots of their socialist-led upbringings.

This years screening of the multi award-winning documentary Freestyle: the Art of Rhyme is a treat for those who missed it last year. Presented “uncut,” this version has rare and unseen footage of heavyweights like Biggie and Tupac. Featuring some of the best freestyling MC’s ever, the film explores the nature of the freestyle culture across the US as it developed from street poetry to on-stage battles. With interviews from members of the Last Poets, Mos Def, Questlove of the Roots, freestyle battle king Supernatural and many more, the film explores the notion that spontaneous art is a powerful and spiritual reaction, creating a world where power can rest with words.

The VIHF runs nightly from 5pm -11pm September 14th to 18th at Video Monsters, the independent video café at 36 Powell St.
For more info and complete listings go to