You would think that between The Freshest Kids and Inside the Circle that there would be no need for another documentary about b-boying, or breakdancing as it's more commonly known. The Freshest Kids is a great documentary that traces the history of b-boying, while the equally impressive Inside the Circle examines the impact b-boy culture has had on young men in Austin, Texas. But the story that these two films just begins to explore is the global impact of b-boy culture, and how it has played out all over the world. And that's where director Benson Lee's Planet B-Boy comes in, joining the mix of inspiring documentaries about the effect breakdancing has had on the world.
Planet B-Boy starts out with a brief history lesson of the b-boy. A crucial part of hip-hop culture before it was even known as hip-hop, breakdancing moved into the mainstream spotlight in the early 1980s, and quickly became a fad. But as with all fads, breaking, or b-boying, quickly became played out and faded from the public eye, but it did not die. Instead of becoming the joke that is was perceived as by the mainstream, b-boying thrived and flourished in the same sort of underground environment from where it first came. And while rap became of element of hip-hop most heavily exploited by corporations, b-boying became a more pure form of expression for true lovers of hip-hop all over the world. In 1990, the first ever Battle of the Year was hosted in Germany, where crews battled to see exactly who the best dancers were. Turning his camera toward the 2005 Battle of the Year, Lee dedicates most of Planet B-Boy to profiling five of the teams in the global competition: Knucklehead Zoo, an all Latino crew from Las Vegas represents the United States, Ichigeki represents Japan, Phase T, the most diverse crew to be profiled reps France, while Last for One and returning champions Gamblerz both represent South Korea.
Striking a nice balance between dance floor action and personal stories, Planet B-Boy manages to find the universal bonds that b-boy culture provides. These bonds become all the more impressive when you stop and consider that b-boy and hip-hop culture were born in the streets of the Bronx, where marginalized and disenfranchised youth created something from nothing. This was never meant to be something that would thrive and survive for over three decades, and reach out to people all over the world. But b-boying is such a pure expression of creativity that it could not be contained within the ghettos of New York or destroyed by corporate exploitation.
There are many great moments to be found in Planet B-Boy, most of them when the dancers are performing. But there is also a great sense of humanity that drives the story within the film itself. Without the stories of these dancers, the sons trying to please fathers who have died or don't understand them, and the kids from the rough neighborhoods looking for a shot a glory, Planet B-Boy would be nothing more than a dance showcase. Instead, this is a portrait of the transformative power that b-boy culture has had on young men and women throughout the world.