There are many fascinating stories that we can use as proof that age is simply a number. But none of them can even stand close to those you are about to see in Bryn Evans’s Hip Hop-eration. After you watch this wonderful film with a touching and profound story about New Zealand’s eldest hip-hop dance troupe, you will realize how important it is to always stay young at heart in order to be able to create something amazing at an age most people would expect less from you.
This is why it was extremely important to be able to connect with Bryn Evans to discuss, I must say, one of the most inspiring documentary films I’ve seen in a while. The interview that I had with Mr. Evans over Skype once again assured me the importance of having such films that will always help us look forward to something that many of us afraid of – being old.
MOVIEMOVESME: How were you introduced to this incredible hip hop dance group and what made you want to make a film about them?
Bryn Evans: I was introduced to the concept by my two producers Alex and Paula. They asked me to come in and just have a look. Funnily enough, they had been approached by the primary protagonist of the movie. I have quite a strong interest in aging and memories; I was really close to my own grandmother. I remember a story where on her birthday she took a parachute jump. So I was always sort of impressed. So when the story came along, it seemed like the right story for me to get involved in. I come from a strong human rights background, so even though Alex and Paula were looking for a commercial story, It came back to like a core Christian love for aging and human nature of aging. So that was what interested me initially.
MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about your approach to shooting as you had to work with people much older than yourself?
Bryn Evans: Every documentary has its own issues upfront. When we first started filming, the hardest thing to get around was that because of the group’s age they weren’t very sure what shooting was all about. At the end of each day they were expecting us to be on the 6 O’ clock news in the evening and they’d come up to me and ask, “Can we start telling our families that we’re gonna be on TV?” And they actually took quite a while to understand that we’re gonna be filming them for a year! I think for someone who’s 95 years old, it is quite a difficult concept to get across that not only are we going to follow your lives but it’s not going to come out for the next two years. So that was quite tricky.
MOVIEMOVESME: How did you convince them to talk to you?
Bryn Evans: One of the things about those characters is that they already had a lot to do with the media. All of those primary characters were extraordinary individuals; they’d spend an extraordinary life. So they sort of understood what we were aiming for. Also spending time with the characters, developing trust, relationship between myself and the crew. We’d sometime go over there and not shoot sometimes; really integrate ourselves with their journey. At the end of the day, they started trusting us more and more and our work.
MOVIEMOVESME: This film changes the viewer’s perception about old people. What did you learn from them that you’d like to pass it on to the audience?
Bryn Evans: It’s really simple. I think after spending a year with this group of people you realize on one hand how complex our lives are, as all of them had led very complex lives, full of hardships, but at the end of the day they were just doing it because they wanted to do it. One thing I learned very quickly was they weren’t doing this to tell the world you can do anything later on in your life, they were doing it because they wanted to do it and not prove anything. It was just extraordinary. I hope to grow as old as 95 and still have the physical capabilities they do because some people can’t physically do the things that they do at that age.
MOVIEMOVESME: I’m curious as to why there aren’t there any male characters interviewed?
Bryn Evans: It’s kind of interesting because we did follow this really lovely man but he pulled out of the group really, really early on. So sadly we weren’t able to follow him. But the interesting thing about the group was that there were 28 members but only 5 of them were men. Two for some reasons and two were completely deaf, so it just didn’t work out. It became a story about a group with an extraordinary women coming together and taking on this task. So it just didn’t work out with the male characters.
MOVIEMOVESME: What were your feelings when you filmed their first dance?
Bryn Evans: We had been filming for about a month before their first performance. We didn’t even know if we had a story people would connect to. The group was very nervous because they hadn’t performed in public and were very concerned about how the public would perceive them. So I think when they performed and then they got the response from the crowd that was generally under 25 years of age, the response they gave the group brought me to tears almost. I immediately knew we had a film that would connect with the audience. It was astounding.
MOVIEMOVESME: What message do you have for those who think life gets over at the age of 60?
Bryn Evans: I think it’s a difficult question to answer because the society we grow up in dictates to us how we perceive growing old. Once you get to the 70s and 80s you want to relax. But what I want to come back to is the basic human right that we all have: To grow old in the manner we want to. Honestly, if your reach 60, 70, or 80 years of age and want to retire or wanna go on tour and live out the rest of your life the way you want, it’s a matter of your choice. No matter my age, I want to be able to live the life I love and if that means dancing or jumping out of a plane then that’s it! I mean who has the right to tell how should they behave at that age? I think what I learned is it gave me a belief that I could continue having a life when I’m in my 90s.