I recently watched Step Up Revolution and was struck by what an awesome case study this film would make in geography classrooms. Some people may be fooled into thinking this is just a film about dance, but Step Up Revolution is a classic geographical (if fictional) study of people, place, power, planning and protest in cities. When a strip in Miami is threatened with topocide and gentrification “The Mob” fight back to protect their home. Guerrilla Geography is rife in this blockbuster, as the dancers move from ‘performance art’ to ‘ protest art’, intentionally occupying spaces to make their point and exert their power. It’s full of beautifully geography-based quotes too, as the characters debate identify, culture and more.
The love interest plot in the film revolves around Sean and Emily, two dancers who have fallen for each other but who are separated by their differences in wealth. To top that it’s Emily’s dad who is trying to redevelop the area and Sean is one of the leaders of the “Mob” that is uprising. Near the end of the film they dance together to the song “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra, a beautiful song that with its use in this film draw parallels between finding a sense of home in both place and people… in this case, with each other through dance.
The film ends with Emily’s dad (the property developer) saying “Maybe there is a way to build-up this neighbourhood without tearing it down”. What a classic problem for any classroom of students try and tackle.
I enjoy listening to music and sounds to intentionally evoke feelings about a place. On the London Underground I will sometimes use my iPhone to record one place only to intentionally listen to it another. Doing this can be highly disorienting to the point where ‘phantom’ sounds force me to stop and make sense of what’s reality. It’s not too different from being in a shop and being apologetic to a mannequin.
Most recently I’ve taken to listening to the soundtrack of Sunshine while navigating the tube. Directed by Danny Boyle the score for the film was created in collaboration between John Murphy and Underworld (who I understand improvised much of it while watching the film). This is essentially a sci-fi horror film about an attempt to stop the Sun from going out by flying a nuclear bomb into it. For those on the ship that will deliver the bomb the journey is far from easy. As the brightening ‘sunshine’ grows so does its beauty, draw and intensity.. but bad things happen on Icarus II, not least the trauma of dealing with the remains of Icarus I, which led the previous and failed mission. This is a tense and psychological film and the soundtrack reflects this.
Stepping into the underground, descending the escalators, boarding a train and listening loud to tracks like ‘Kanada’s Death’ and ”Pinback Slashes Capa” can be more the unsettling. While I know that I’m in a relatively safe environment the whispers, tense chords and creeping acoustics always force me to tighten up. Underground trains are essentially spaceships that journey through dark space and eventually into sunshine.. they move in and contain political spaces that exist to provide freedom but have been exploited to instill fear through violence.
While the score for the film has been composed for something (un)real it has a very real impact on my (un)enjoyment of travel and one that I suggest you give a try…