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This film's playing Saturday at 2:00 at the Carlton.


TRIBE Member
Filmed in the streets and underground open mikes of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, FREESTYLE is a documentary film that explores the lyrical world of a particularly African-American form of story telling: Rap. From neighborhood battles where DJ’s rock doubles of breaks, to live radio performances, to just kicking rhymes on a park bench, FREESTYLE provides an inside look into the life, music, and culture of hip-hop in America today. It is a world where real artists weave improvisational story for a community of listeners out of the ever-simmering gumbo of language, politics and cultural paradigms that make up their lives. It is a world where hip-hop’s relationship to community space, particularly the inner city parks and community centers that gave birth to the phenomenon, is clearly seen.

Shot on 16-mm film and digital video, FREESTYLE, by filmmaker Kevin Fitzgerald, features innovators such as The Last Poets, Freestyle Fellowship, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Medusa, Supernatural, Divine Styler, and Cut Chemist. These artists shape the form of this film with their own words and performances. As a community of artists, the performers in FREESTYLE touch our hearts and expand our minds, destroying the played out gangster rap image by showing us a real humanity that has attracted both the world’s attention and dollars.

Hip-Hop is a tool for both personal and socio-economic change by those who stay true to the form. While it is evident that those in it for just the fame and fortune do not necessarily "make it", the others who continue the work out of a pure love for the art benefit in a much deeper way. Like the griots of Africa, the hip-hop MC shares the same need to communicate poetic story to an open community. FREESTYLE explores how rap brings about a spiritual transformation of frustration into beauty through catharsis. The amazing improvisational nature of freestyle poetry creates a channel of startling immediacy and power analogous to the trance-like explorations of hip-hop’s forebears such as jazz poets like Amiri Baraka, H. Rap Brown and Gil Scott Heron.

FREESTYLE employs the B-Boy idiom to tell its story through a rhythmic montage of the various disciplines of hip-hop, including: rapping, DJ'ing, breakdancing and graffiti art. A visual style is used that reflects both the music and culture of hip-hop to contextualize the artists and their work as instruments of the spirit, mirroring society in story and rhyme.

FREESTYLE incorporates pieces of all of us in its stew: brown, black, Asian and white. Those who have something to say and the voice to say it, as well as those who would simply like to listen, are all parts of the cipher. FREESTYLE is a fresh exploration of hip-hop and the art of improvisational rap in particular, that encourages us as an audience to join the circle of urban storytellers and to wonder if we might when it is all over, find a bit of ourselves there and feel like joining in.