LIFT Review – 2022 Tribeca Film Festival

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Films about ballet tend to focus on the enormous sacrifices this art requires, often reaching extreme levels – Suspiria, Black Swanor the recent dance on glass are examples. It is also common to view ballet as an elitist and artistic expression exclusive to the upper classes. However, David by Peterson inspiring documentary RISING breaks with these notions and portrays ballet as an uplifting artistic tool that brings growth and hope even to marginalized communities.

LIFT is the name of a New York Theater Ballet community service program that provides scholarships to children living in homeless shelters. Steven Melendez began practicing ballet at the age of 7 through this program and eventually became a world-class dancer. Now retired and director of LIFT, Steven embarks on a journey through the city’s havens to recruit young talent and inspire hope for a better future through ballet.

In addition to Steven, Petersen follows three BIPOC children from the LIFT program: Victor, a young prodigy with a promising future; Yolanssie, an intense and aggressive Puerto Rican girl; and little Sharia, who lives in a shelter (unfortunately we don’t learn more about her).

Petersen follows these three people for several years – 10 in the case of Victor – which, in addition to giving depth to some of their stories, generates a feeling of satisfaction to see them grow, learn, overcome the obstacles of life , or even succeed in getting out of it. complicated socio-economic situation.

Victor and Yolanssie exemplify the value of LIFT and ballet in different ways. Thanks to Victor, we understand the potential of a well-structured social program geared towards creating real change; the young man achieves his goals because, in addition to having a great work ethic, talent and passion, he has the full support and trust of mentors interested in his development. On the other hand, Yolanssie turns out to be a fascinating figure who exemplifies LIFT’s power to keep young people off the streets. When she can no longer attend ballet classes and therefore has too much free time, she doesn’t know how to channel her aggressive personality, so she begins to get in trouble at school after bonding with her. friendship with all the bad people. Yolanssie challenges Steven, who uses ballet and his wisdom to try to get her out of trouble.

As I hinted earlier, the film struggles to balance the focus of its subjects. We learn a lot from Victor and Yolanssie, but Sharia’s impact on the story is minimal as Petersen forgets about it for long periods of time. However, her gentle presence and an important event in her life create tender and moving moments that go hand in hand with the overall message of RISING.

The film’s timeline is oddly disorganized. Petersen introduces us to Victor when he’s 10 and Yolanssie when she’s 12, but after a while the Victor we’re following is 16. You would expect that going back to Yolanssie, she would be 18 (Victor aged 6 years in the movie), but she isn’t… she’s only 13. This temporal disarray, which moves back and forth between subjects of different time periods and ages without any explanation, causes confusion and distractions. However, this time the sin doesn’t degrade the overall experience because, ironically, the editing is quite smooth, and the overflowing passion that everyone shows on screen becomes a soft blanket of optimism that embraces you and makes you forget about any technical problem.

And to wrap it all up, Steven, who in addition to recruiting, guiding and teaching homeless students, explores his childhood traumas through ballet: as part of his soul-searching, he plans a performance with the students of LIFT which, in addition to allowing us to learn more about the subjects of the film and their parents, ultimately leads to a lively finale.

Although he encounters some bumps in the road, RISING successfully forging a touching testimony to the power of art to transform lives, inspire and create purpose. It’s refreshing to see such an uplifting ballet tale that captures its beauty and hopeful strength while shattering stereotypes.

RISING had its world premiere at 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. You can learn more about the LIFT program at NYTB Official Site.

RISING

8/10

TL; DR

Although he encounters some bumps in the road, RISING successfully forging a touching testimony to the power of art to transform lives, inspire and create purpose. It’s refreshing to see such an uplifting ballet tale that captures its beauty and hopeful strength while shattering stereotypes.