Club culture, dance battles, and cultural centers are common and also highly regarded in Baltimore – a city known more for its drugs and murders than for its talent and creativity. Outside of Baltimore, that is. On the inside, most locals would instantly know the best DJ or the best choreographer.
TT The Artist does double duty behind the lens, as well as in front of it. Appearing as one of Dark City Beneath the Beat’s subjects, she never hogs the spotlight from any of the other colorful artists she captures. A fair light is shone on everyone in an arts and culture scene most people would never experience unless they lived in Baltimore, Maryland. Having grown up there, the filmmaker (and also artist/musician/whatever – she really does have a hand in all sorts of creative work including some of the film’s soundtrack composition) has an insider’s eye and a sense of who to talk to in order to showcase noteworthy characters and creators.
A beat impossible to not move to permeates almost every scene. Sitting in a chair watching, your feet will want to tap and your hips will want to wiggle. Even some of the narration and interviews form rhythmic lead-ins to musical segments. The location shots also flit rhythmically from bold and colorful staged decor, to gymnasium interiors, to backdrops of street art.
Public spaces are vital to house and breed the creative community. In particular, young kids need good role models to keep them out of trouble. It’s a lot healthier if they’re given an outlet to express their emotions. Many are angry and volatile due to broken homes, abuse, or neglect. In addition, sociopolitical issues continue to oppress the residents of Baltimore. Rappers, dancers, freestylers, hip-hop and jazz artists gather in the streets because they have nowhere else to go. Though there are efforts to maintain cultural events, there don’t seem to be enough indoor venues to host the cornucopia of talent the city really has.
TT The Artist may not yet be well known outside of Baltimore, but when people get wind of Dark City Beneath the Beat, she’ll be fighting off the scripts and proposals for new projects. Director of Photography Kirby Griffin also adds his touch. One visually memorable scene features a ballerina in a graveyard doing freestyle-slash-contemporary dance. The camera follows her movements but also tilts up to a very blue sky with clouds. All the while, a group of performers sing about rising up. About changing lives. In a cold, mean world, we should all be ourselves, and more. We should resist against our oppression, and soar.
Dark City Beneath the Beat – On Demand, November 12th – 18th, 2020