BBoy for Life is a documentary feature produced and directed by Coury Deeb. This is Deeb’s third feature-length documentary produced under his production company Nadus Films. Deeb’s other two films, A New Sudan and Grace Surpasses, focused on the Sudanese Civil War and its impact on the peoples of the land.
In BBoy for Life, Deeb conquers a new challenge and a new land: Gang violence in Guatemala, and how a group of break dancers defy death and escape the pressure and violence of gangs through collaboration and competition. At the risk of their own lives, these young men and women band together to express their art, find freedom, and combat the darkness and death that permeates the streets where they live.
Set in Guatemala City, BBoy for Life chronicles the stories of Cheez, Gato, and Leidy. Cheez is a charismatic BBoy who trains dancers, and forms the Poker Crew, a group of men and women who break dance and compete throughout Central America.
Twenty-one year old Gato bears the scars of his brother’s murder by gangsters. Gato’s brother refused to give up the names of BBoys in the neighborhood, and paid for his loyalty with his life.
Leidy is a 34-year-old mother of two, and self-described “active gang member” who has just been released from prison. But she wants out of the gang life, and to reconnect with her now teenage sons. Through her exposure to the BBoys, Leidy discovers hope and possibly a way out of gang life.
A former photographer, Deeb creates a moving portrait of a community of dancers struggling to thrive and fight for their art, juxtaposed against the serene beauty of South America, contrasted with the harsh reality of gangster and prison life.
There are over 70,000 active gang members in Central America, and in Guatemala, the only way to leave a gang is in a coffin. Deeb conducts grievous interviews with gang members in prison, some of them have their faces covered because of fear of being recognized. Many gloat over their horrendous acts, while others are haunted by those they have killed. One gangster with a lifeless gaze explains to the camera, “The children of this generation must realize they only have two options: prison, or the cemetery.”
BBoys are hunted and killed by the gangs, so the Poker Crew literally dances under threat of death. Yet, they choose the joy and hope of this art over the hopelessness and despair that is only found through gang life. BBoy for Life shows the triumph of art over evil, and how one generation desires to inspire others in their generation—and the generations to come—to do the same.
Leidy’s story is undoubtedly the most powerful and compelling. Deeb discussed one of the most impacting moments of the documentary, where Leidy confesses to her mother and grandmother that her time in prison was not the fault of a man, or others, but because of her involvement in a gang.
“It really organically happened,” Deeb said. “It was toward the end of one of the trips where we were there. After she had tasted some redemption and transformation, she voluntarily made the decision to tell her mother and grandmother, because she felt it was a necessary step for forgiveness, redemption, and reformation for her life.”
The film is beautifully weaved with moments such as these. Despite the heavy subject matter, the inspiration of the break dancers giving their heart and soul to their craft, the beauty of the strong bond of community that is formed from their commitment to the dance and each other, and the redemption and restoration of Leidy and her sons bring an uplift that counterbalances the shadow of violence and death.
As you walk through the lives of the three subjects, and watch the Poker Crew compete in dancing contests, you are strongly invested in not only seeing good come of their present hopes and dreams, but for their future lives.
BBoy for Life premieres Friday, April 11 in El Paso, and on Thursday April 17 in San Antonio, and Bronx, NY. You can find out more about the film, and request information on screenings in your city through the BBoy for Life website.