Everyday Activist - Walk, Run, Cha-Cha (Oscars 2020)

Posted on Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 07:00 PM

Walk, Run, Cha-Cha (Oscars 2020)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

Normally before I review a dance film, I need time to process the story, the dancing and how the two interact. Walk, Run, Cha-Cha’s storyline is one that I know well, as my Latin dance instructor, Thu Luu also came to Canada after the Vietnam war. His studio Ballroom and Country is the same shade of purple of the Lai Lai Ballroom and Dance Studio and attracts thongs of older Asian students along with Eastern European teachers. Director, Laura Nix, says she didn’t want to focus on the past; however, without delving into how hard life was under the communists, she loses valuable context for her question that the film was supposed to answer, ‘‘What makes these two people so dedicated to dancing?”

My question is, “Why do people spend time and money taking lessons, buying costumes and traveling to competitions if they don’t have a chance to win?” Paul and Millie took up ballroom dancing much later in life. I understand dance offers connection on a physical and emotional level as well as progressing through the syllabus figures. Though, after six years of training, four to five nights a week, sometimes with two coaches, I would expect that they could at least turn their feet out correctly. The beauty of the dance comes from the energy in the feet that transfers to the top, which I found missing in the film’s closing performance. Too often people are in a rush to learn all the figures without taking the time to understand what makes them magical.

This documentary had potential to actually be political by educating people who don’t know that while the Vietnam War was bad for Americans, the aftermath was worse for the Vietnamese under the communists. The South China Sea claimed the lives of thousands who fled their home. Canadian author, Kim Thuy writes and speaks openly about her childhood fleeing her homeland as staying guaranteed death, but life on a rickety, overcrowded boat on a sea filled with pirates who often murdered and raped migrants, offered hope. Paul hints at this when he talks about his mother’s business, but doesn’t go into the details of his life as a boat person, being in a refugee camp in Taiwan or the trials he must have faced entering the US. Canada accepted many Vietnamese refugees in the seventies and eighties, though even back then the US had tighter immigration regulations.

Thu Luu took up ballroom dancing as a healthier way to deal with his trauma. When I couldn’t walk straight after my second accident, I knew ballroom would heal the physical and emotional scars. Dancing gives Paul and Millie the opportunity to process all the intense emotions they experienced throughout their lives. Escaping totalitarian regimes aside, rebuilding in a new country, especially in a place known for racism specifically against Asians. George Takei’s graphic novel, They Called Us Enemy, talks about the Japanese Internment where his family in California was relocated to Arkansas. I often wondered if the reasons Canada accepted Vietnamese migrants included a need to assuage guilt over the Japanese internment. Because Nix didn’t focus on the past to properly comprehend the extent of suffering Paul and Millie survived, she never answers her question.  

Calgary Showtimes: Walk, Run, Cha-Cha >


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