Hip Hop-eration - review

Before Waiheke became a playground for the wealthy, it was known for its subversive, counter-cultural element. As it happens, some of those subversives still live there, and they banded together in old age to overthrow conventional notions of dance and age by forming a 27-strong hip-hop troupe.

The principal focus of this documentary are 95-year-old Maynie “Quicksilver” Thompson, Kara “Kara Bang-Bang” Nelson (94), Terri “Terri 2-cents” Woolmore-Goodwin (94), and Billie Jordan, the dance troupe manager who took them all to Las Vegas last year to compete in the World Hip Hop Championships.

Jordan’s enthusiasm, goofiness and good-natured banter anchor these unlikely stars as she cajoles and sweet-talks them into putting their best foot forward on the dance floor, both on tranquil Waiheke and in tacky, glitzy Las Vegas (“You’re all going... even if it’s in an urn,” she tells them).

Stories of old people engaging with the world outside can be saccharine, if not downright patronising, but Evans introduces a reality check when the elderly crew go off to South Auckland to visit local hip-hop troupes. Their performance brings the house down and their new-found friends later repay the favour by travelling to Waiheke to meet their newly adopted nanas and papas on their home turf.

Evans has skilfully woven contemporary shots of the island with images from its past, and has some of the hip-hoppers relating incidents from their own pasts (including peace marches across the US, anti-nuclear protests and wartime lovers).

The result is the best kind of feel-good doco — warm, inspiring, insightful and funny — and one that could easily give 2007’s hit Young@Heart a run for its money around the world.