NG83 When We Were B Boys

Review by Poppy Doran @poppydoran

Directed by

Claude Knight Sam Derby-Cooper

Starring

N/A

Anticipation.

Novice filmmakers pay tribute a bygone subculture.

Enjoyment.

B boys is very much a B movie.

In Retrospect.

Touching, but takes far too long to get there.

Ageing Nottingham-based breakdancers attempt to relive their glory days in this scrappy doc.

NG83 looks and feels like a desperate cry for help, a band fronted by the ragtag hanger-ons of a bygone era. Five former break-dancers ponder how hip hop saved them from the boredom of inner-city Nottingham. These men still speak, dress up in retro duds and sport eccentric nicknames (Bionic Sly is a highlight) as if the sun never set on their hip hop heyday. It becomes clear that as the fad of breakdancing fell out of fashion, these men collectively stumbled off the wagon. These former ‘B-Boys’ make for a poignant, but flawed, case study of how teenage obsessions can go on to shape adulthood.

The intentions of the directors are unclear: are we celebrating or mocking these men? They recognise themselves as “dinosaurs”, but happily claw at their waning “local celebrity” statuses. The cinematography parodies the subjects. Scrappy footage of street dancing in the ’80s and present-day reconstructions (old men dancing on bridges are a frequent fixture) are purposefully juxtaposed. The men appear so flamboyant that it is difficult to sympathise with them. Their ramblings falter on without structure or purpose, leaving the last ten minutes to tie together an abundance of loose ends.

Karl (“D2”) flicks through his scrapbooks, revealing hundreds of posters and pictures from his youth. For a film that feels like it was made exclusively for its inner circle, this provides some much needed relatability. Yet the imperfection inherent in these characters is what humanises them. Danny’s mother worries for his smoking; Electro collects bricks due to anxiety; and K. I. D. goes missing. The seams of their being slowly begin to fray, before an unforeseen tragedy rips apart this micro universe.

NG83 is a one-way ticket to Nottingham, 1983. That is where the film succeeds – in transporting to the vibrant Market Square, the low-lit crowds of Rock City and the hum of audiences gathered on the streets for impromptu dance shows. But this portrait of “Little New York” only makes the present day interviewees appear more desperate than they already are. Erratic storylines float around begging the question, was this really a story worth telling? Their attempts to hold on to this world are worthless. Time has moved on.

Published 28 Oct 2016

Anticipation.

Novice filmmakers pay tribute a bygone subculture.

Enjoyment.

B boys is very much a B movie.

In Retrospect.

Touching, but takes far too long to get there.

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