Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Saturday, 10/15/2011, 6:00 PM Feature presentation, $12 at Atlas Center for the Performing Arts
A DECADE AFTER his tour-de-force Metrosexuality, Rikki Beadle Blair once again graces Reel Affirmations with another singular film. Bashment provokes as much as it appeals in its timely red-blooded examination of some hot-button concerns — as well as commonalities — in our modern world.
Blair, who handles all the principal roles in production, adapted Bashment from his stage play, dressing it up in his signature flair of dazzling cinematic editing tricks. The action is set in London’s multi-ethnic hip hop scene, where the Jamaican-flavored dancehall music style predominates. Dancehall’s ragga rappers are antigay by default, and many — too many — fans turn a blind eye to their violent lyrics.
Drawn from a dancehall term for a good party, Bashment focuses on a disrespectful, bullying crew of black rappers, who steal the stage at a local ragga competition from an aspiring white rapper. JJ, played with intermittent conviction by Joel Dommett, is thoroughly immersed in black British culture, right up to his dreadlocks. But not only is JJ gay, he takes the crew to task over its anti-gay rhymes, winning the ragga battle in the process. The crew finds an easy target for revenge in JJ’s slightly effeminate white boyfriend Orlando (Marcus Kai), and sadly puts the “bash” in bashment — over and over and over again.
Somehow, Orlando survives the bloody, brutal bashing, but only as a brain-damaged, childlike man, all sunny disposition and little control over bodily functions. His saga, plus his attackers’ initial utter lack of remorse, fuels the film’s second half and ultimately its key message about the power of music and lyrics to hurt, but especially to heal.
Amidst all its violence and hostility, Bashment is full of hope and heart — everyone heals to some degree by film’s end. Perhaps it’s a shade too naïve in its post-prison portrayal of the bashing rappers as fully reformed. Most notable is the transformation of the man known as Krazy Kop Killa (played with pizzazz by Nathan Clough), who becomes a drag queen named Dionne. The rappers also redeem themselves by helping JJ and his gay crew care for Orlando.
If dreams occasionally really can and do become reality, well, Bashment is certainly a dream worth pursuing.
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