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  • BACKGROUNDER

    Synopsis:
    Award-winning film Bouncing Cats is the inspiring documentary of one man’s attempt to create a better life for the children of Uganda through the unlikely tools of hip hop and breakdance. Narrated by Common and featuring interviews with Will.I.Am, and K’Naan, the story follows the legendary Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew and b-boy Abramz, the founder of Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU), on a journey to unify, empower and inspire youth in the war torn country that has been called one of the worst places on earth to be a child.*  Poverty, disease, and a brutal, mindless war in the region have divided families, displaced millions and led to the abduction and mutilation of tens of thousands of children resulting in the deterioration of identity and culture.

    In response to these tragic circumstances, Abraham “Abramz” Tekya, a Ugandan b-boy and AIDS orphan, started Breakdance Project Uganda to create much needed positive social change in the region. His dream was to establish a free workshop that would empower, rehabilitate, and heal the community by teaching youth about b-boy culture. Crazy Legs, one of the founding members of the world famous Rock Steady Crew, visited Uganda after receiving an invitation from Abramz to teach b-boy classes. What he discovered upon his arrival was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Traveling throughout Uganda, from the southern slums to the war-torn north, Crazy Legs encountered a passion for hip hop and desire to learn amongst youth living in the most squalid conditions.

    After only a few short months on the festival circuit, the film by director Nabil Elderkin has already won “Best Documentary Feature Film” at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York; “Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking” at the Newport Beach Film Festival; and “Audience Favorite Award” at DocUtah – Southern Utah International Documentary Film Festival.

    *Source:  Former UNICEF head Carol Bellamy has called northern Uganda “pretty much the worst place on earth to be a child.” Over 20,000 children – some as young as six years old – have been abducted by the rebel-led Lords Resistance Army (LRA), forced to serve as child soldiers, sex slaves, and laborers. http://www.warchild.org/projects/WC_Canada/Uganda/uganda.html

    Breakdance Project Uganda:
    Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU) started in February 2006 by Abramz out of his belief that hip hop can be used as a tool to engage and empower disadvantaged youth. Its mission is to involve young people in hip hop culture in order to build leadership skills and promote social responsibility for positive change. The Project has attracted people from every walk of life and acts as a catalyst for building mutually beneficial relationships between people of different social strata across Uganda and the rest of the world. From the initial three students who turned up at the first session, the Project has grown through word of mouth, regular showcase performances, and exposure on the World Wide Web to become a thriving organization with over 1,000 members nationally in Uganda and many more supporters around the world.

    Abramz organizes breakdancing sessions each week for hundreds of youth in different parts of the country. The Project has been built around free breakdancing classes which are currently offered at the Sharing Youth Centre, Kampala, Gulu Youth Centre and TAKS Art Centre in Gulu. The classes are sustained by members freely passing on their skills to new members, following the BPU ideology that everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher with something positive to give. Members have also made outreach visits to towns in other parts of Eastern and Northern Uganda to share their skills and engage more youth across Uganda. Many of the participating children are extremely vulnerable with members who are orphans, victims of war and poverty, unable to afford proper schooling.  Despite the hardships, children walk from miles away to attend the BPU classes each week. As Abramz says, “This is where many people’s pride is. It’s a skill that no one can take away from us.”

    BPU supports formal and non-formal education opportunities by advocating the importance of education and partnering with organizations to increase members’ access to educational services such as life skills workshops, media and skills training, voluntary counseling and testing, and advocacy training. Through the sale of BPU t-shirts, the Project also sponsors schools fees for vulnerable members.

    BPU aims to:
    • Bridge the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged while uniting people of different religious, tribal and social backgrounds
    • Promote positive social responsibility
    • Build leadership skills and self-esteem
    • Increase access to formal and informal education
    • Generate employment opportunities through private teaching and performances
    • Connect local and international artists

    Over the past four years, BPU has partnered with local and international organizations including: Oxfam, MS Uganda, In Movement, People Concern Children’s Project, Danish Centre for Cultural Development, H.E.A.L.S. (Gulu), Global Youth Partnership for Africa, the Embassy of France in Uganda, Uganda FDNC, and USAID/NUTI, Straight Talk Foundation (STF), and has carried out activities in orphanages, juvenile prisons, local and international schools, and youth and community centers.

    Call to Action:
    For those interested in supporting the work of BPU, donations can be made through the organization’s fiscal sponsor The Voice Project via the Bouncing Cats site at http://www.bouncingcats.com/donate. Donations are 100% tax deductible.  Proceeds go directly to Breakdance Project Uganda to continue its mission to empower and positively inspire youth through hip hop. Abramz also hopes to one day build a permanent center for BPU.

    With a donation of $15 or more to BPU, contributors receive a limited edition Bouncing Cats t-shirt while supplies last. The t-shirts are made by Edun, the non-profit fashion brand founded by Ali Hewson and Bono, using 100% African cotton grown by farmers of the Conservation Cotton Initiative (CCI) in Northern Uganda. The CCI was created by Edun, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Invisible Children to build sustainable farming communities and provide a fair trade market for their cotton. The CCI Uganda Program is based in the Gulu District, an area recovering from the civil war. The CCI Initiative assists farmers who are returning to their land by providing funding, tools, and training to grow a sustainable cotton business.

    Uganda:
    According to the World Bank, more than 30% of the population in Uganda lives below the poverty line. Uganda is a rapidly growing nation with a very young population (Source: UNGASS). An estimated 49% of people in Uganda are under the age of 14 (Source: Population Reference Bureau). After the introduction of Universal Primary Education in Uganda in 1997, primary school enrollment increased to 82% but less than 20% of young people go on to complete further education (Source: Population Reference Bureau). Development in Uganda has been greatly hampered by more than two decades of conflict between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the North and, as a result, the opportunities available to young people are extremely limited. Unemployment levels for young people between the ages of 14 and 24 are estimated to be at 83% (Source: ADI Report 2008/2009).

    However, there is hope for young people in Uganda as the country gets closer to reaching its Millennium Development Goals. Since 1992, the number of people living in poverty has substantially decreased by more than 25% according to the 2007 UNDP Uganda Progress Report. Gender equality has been steadily improving with more than 2 million additional girls enrolling in primary school each year. Indicators show that HIV/AIDS prevalence has stabilized at 6.4%. Overall, there is growing optimism across Uganda that things will continue to improve and peace will remain.

    Bouncing Cats Cast:
    Abraham “Abramz” Tekya:
    Abraham Tekya, commonly known as “Abramz,” is the director and founder of Breakdance Project Uganda, an organization launched in February 2006 that uses breakdance and other elements of hip hop culture to promote positive change and social responsibility. A native of Mengo, Kampala, Uganda, Abramz grew up quickly, as most children in Uganda are forced to. At the age of seven, he lost both of his parents to AIDS and was orphaned, shuffled between distant relatives and different homes. Despite these circumstances, Abramz used his life experience and love of hip hop to educate, inspire and unite youth in Uganda and beyond.

    Richard “Crazy Legs” Colòn:
    To call Richard “Crazy Legs” Colòn a pioneer is an understatement. It is nearly impossible to have a conversation about b-boying without giving mention to the legendary Crazy Legs. Not only is he a veteran of hip hop as a culture, boasting more than 3 decades as the driving force behind the hip hop dance movement, but he’s also an outstanding citizen and role model. He has lent his time, experience, and influence to aiding and encouraging the positive advancement of hip hop culture. Among his many achievements, he is credited with the creation of the classic b-boy move called the continuous backspin or “windmill.”

    Jolly Grace Okot:
    Jolly Grace Okot, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was among the first wave of children abducted and forced to be a child soldier in the beginning of Uganda’s civil war.  She is the Uganda Country director for Invisible Children (IC) and has been involved with the organization since the beginning. Her guidance enabled Bouncing Cats‘ filmmakers to see and understand the plight of children in Northern Uganda, and her leadership and direction helped create IC’s initiatives on the ground. Okot also runs H.E.A.L.S., a program that provides play therapy for war-affected children.

    Kibuka Mukisa Oscar:
    Kibuka Mukisa Oscar, who joined BPU in 2006 and regularly attends weekly Sharing Youth Centre sessions, recently finished secondary school. He dreams of working in the visual arts.

    Shadia Aghamu:
    Aghamu Shadia was born into a family of 13 children. She dreams of going to a good business school, earning enough money to support her family, and hopes to buy a bus for BPU one day.

    Alfred Otim:
    Alfred Otim, currently studying at Gulu College, hopes to go to University to become an engineer. He intends to earn money for University by teaching and performing.

    Claire Lewis:
    Claire Lewis, a 20-year Oxfam veteran, has been based in Africa for the past four years. During a fateful trip to Los Angeles, she met director Elderkin and the two discussed hip hop, which included Lewis mentioning Abramz’ inspirational work in Uganda. After the meeting, Lewis casually suggested Elderkin drop by to see Kampala one day…

    Ynot:
    Ynot started dancing at the age of 17 and was mainly influenced by James Brown. He is a member of the legendary Rock Steady Crew. He enjoys traveling and teaching workshops across the US and the world.

    Ervin Arana:
    DJ, photographer and respected b-boy Ervin Arana is a member of the Rock Steady Crew. He has appeared in numerous music videos and shares his knowledge of dance through lectures and workshops.

    Additional details on cast members are available at http://www.bouncingcats.com/cast/

    Additional Credits & Film Details:
    Bouncing Cats was produced by Red Bull Media House and directed by Nabil Elderkin. All proceeds from the film are going to Breakdance Project Uganda.

    Nabil Elderkin, Director:
    Bouncing Cats Director Nabil Elderkin, originally a native of Australia, began his photography career when he picked up a camera to shoot portraits of fellow surfers. What started as a hobby, rapidly developed into a working career. From surf portraits, Elderkin began shooting musicians and anyone that inspired him. He later moved to the United States to continue to expand his career. Today, Elderkin lives and works in Los Angeles at his studio downtown. He shoots musicians, sports, fashion, and portraiture. Elderkin has recently published a book titled Glow in the Dark with Kanye West through Rizzoli and has directed several music videos and documentaries from here to Africa. Traveling is his passion. He created the film in order to bring attention to the situation in Uganda as well as support the inspiring work Abramz is doing through BPU.

    Executive Producers: Amy Taylor, Scott Bradfield, Karma Gardner, Charlie Rosene

    Producers: Nyla Hassell, George Mays, Claude Merkel, Charles Spano

    Film Editing: Isaac Hagy

    Sound Editor: Andrew Le Guier

    Genre: Documentary / Music

    Runtime: 75 minutes

    Country: USA

    Language: English

    Color: Color

    Filming Locations: Uganda, USA

    Festival Tour & Special Engagements:
    Bouncing Cats is screening on the festival circuit and at special engagements across the US. Key screenings include:

    - Apr. 17 – Newport Beach Film Festival – Newport Beach, CA
    - Aug. 21 – DocuFest Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival – Atlanta, GA
    - Sep. 17, 18 – Urbanworld Film Festival – New York, NY
    - Sep. 17-19 – DocUtah – Southern Utah Int’l Documentary Film Festival – St. George, UT
    - Sep. 22 – Manifesto Film Fest – Toronto, ON
    - Sep. 23 – Montreal International Black Film Festival – Montreal, QC
    - Oct. 8-10 – BendFilm – Bend, OR
    - Oct. 16, 17, 19, 22 – Heartland Truly Moving Pictures – Indianapolis, IN
    - Oct. 18, 24 – Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival – Hot Springs National Park, AR
    - Oct. 30 – MoogFest – Asheville, NC
    - Nov. 3 – USC Albert & Dana Broccoli Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
    - Nov. 4, 7 – American Film Market (AFM) – Santa Monica, CA
    - Nov. 7 – Hartford International Film Festival – Hartford, CT
    - Nov. 9 – National Geographic LIVE! – Washington DC
    - Nov. 11 – Rice University – Houston, TX
    - Nov. 16 – Downtown Independent – Los Angeles, CA
    - Nov. 19 – Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ
    - Nov. 20 – Decatur High School Performing Arts Center – Atlanta, GA
    - Dec. 4 – Northwestern University McCormick Tribune Theater - Evanston, IL
    - Dec. 5 – Bahamas International Film Festival - Nassau, Bahamas
    - Dec. 16 – NYU – New York, NY

    Please visit the Bouncing Cats site for additional screening announcements at http://www.bouncingcats.com/screenings/.

    Awards:
    Newport Film Festival “Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking”
    Urbanworld Film Festival “Best Documentary Feature Film”
    DocUtah – Southern Utah International Documentary Film Festival “Audience Favorite Award”
    Bahamas International Film Festival Audience Award for “Best Feature Documentary”

    Distribution:
    Bouncing Cats distribution is open to negotiations.  For distribution related inquiries, please contact Nyla Hassell at nyla.hassell@us.redbull.com.

    Bouncing Cats Links:
    - Official Web Site: http://www.bouncingcats.com
    - Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bouncingcats
    - Twitter: http://twitter.com/bouncingcats
    - Video Trailer: http://vimeo.com/12234800

    Publicity Contact:
    For more information, or to request screeners, images, and interviews, please contact Green Galactic’s Lynn Tejada (née Hasty) at 213-840-1201 or lynn@greengalactic.com.

    Click to watch the Bouncing Cats trailer.

    (Updated 12/02/10)

    Posted on October 28th, 2010 lynn-hasty No comments

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