Film Reviews

Review: ‘Our Dance of Revolution’

Hot Docs 2019


Our Dance of Revolution
(Canada, 102 min.)
Dir. Phillip Pike
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premier)

At last, there is a documentary that does justice to the influential LGBTQ+ activists of colour who helped shape Toronto’s political landscape.

Phillip Pike has gathered archival footage and some of the community’s best minds and most passionate advocates to tell the stories of how black activists lived, partied and most important, organized.

The film opens with Black Lives Matter (BLM), led by Black queer women, disrupting the Pride Parade in 2016 via a 30-minute sit-in. Pike’s premise is that BLM did not come out of nowhere but stands on the shoulders of black activism that has been a vital force in Toronto for over 40 years.

His first focus is on a collective household that, in the early 80s, nurtured several influential activists, including Makeda Silvera, co-founder of Sister Vision Press, Debbie Douglas, Rinaldo Walcott and Douglas Stewart, all of whom appear in the film. The film covers Black Cap, the organization committed to reducing the spread of HIV infection in Black communities. Founded in 1989, its original motto, “Because all black lives are important,” presages Black Lives Matter.

Then the doc goes on to touch on everything from Zami, considered Toronto’s first black lesbian group, to Black DJs like DJ Black Cat and Niki Redman’s struggles with Pride and its disrespectful treatment of the popular dance event Blockarama that they made so successful, to Rev. David Peart’s inspirationally empowering Sunset Service.

Pike’s genius directorial move is to choose the brilliant Angela Robertson and Douglas Stewart as commentators who give context to all of these political events. They are clear, perceptive and effective.

Occasionally, Pike lets the camera do the talking, as when a female Black Lives Matter speaker at Pride is met with onlookers’ virulent misogyny. A male speaker gets much more respect. But Our Dance is a survey, so it jumps around a lot and sometimes doesn’t stay on one subject as long as you’d want. The fierce Sharona Hall does get her due but, weirdly, the film pays tribute to drag performer Michelle Ross without ever showing her do her thing on stage.

And though Pike uses Black Lives Matter as a frame for the film, he doesn’t delve too deeply into the organization’s specific politics, especially the extent to which BLM, rage-inspired as it is, boldly advocates in favour of love, especially when they’re being harassed by police.

But this is an important, ground breaking movie. See it with an audience that’s bound to be passionate and proud.

Our Dance of Revolution screens:
-Mon, April 29 at 6:15 PM at TIFF Lightbox 2
-Wed, May 1 at 2:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3
-Fri, May 3 at 12:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 8
Hot Docs runs April 25 to May 5. Please visit hotdocs.ca for more information.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!