Film Reviews

Review: ‘Check It’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs

Check It
(USA, 91 min.)
Dir. Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer
Programme: World Showcase (International Premiere)

For a movie about impoverished black kids in Washington D.C., there’s plenty of joy in Check It. The doc follows gay and lesbian kids who form a gang to protect themselves. “Gay and black,” says an adult, “they’re in a world of their own.” Check It is no toy gang; members fight hardcore, and we see them doing it.

Some of the film’s joy comes from the doc’s kinetic style, which matches Check It’s restless exuberance. Usually dressed to kill, members hop, bop, cartwheel and hug each other. The filmmakers clearly love characters like Skittles, a boy who dresses girly and boxes really well. At the gym, his trainer tells him “in the ring you gotta man up.” Unfazed, Skittles laughs that he wants to sport Brazilian hair extensions when he fights. If he gets k.o.ed, “At least I’ll look pretty.”

A guardian angel gets the kids into a fashion camp where they learn various skills. The boxing and the fashion apprenticeship offer life lessons that may or may not save the gang from catastrophe. The doc, which could use tightening, doesn’t hide from hopelessness, but it remains resolutely upbeat.

Check It screens:
-Friday, May 6 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 6:00 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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