SXSW Film Review: 'Born to Fly'

Dancers soar, slam, and crash to stunning effect in bio-doc

You'll need to revise your definition of "action hero" after seeing this adrenaline-pumping documentary about extreme dance choreographer Elizabeth Streb.


The members of Streb's Brooklyn-based company have moves to shame Hollywood's beefcake pretenders to the title. They routinely smash into Plexiglass panels, dive through panes of glass, dodge swinging cinder blocks, walk on walls, leap from giant spinning wheels, soar, and slam into the earth, all with an athleticism that's beyond Olympian and a grace worthy of ballet.

Director Catherine Gund shows how Streb pioneered this performance hybrid – part modern dance, part sport, part circus art – tracking its evolution from Streb's childhood fascination with physical endurance through her development as a choreographer in the Seventies and Eighties New York dance scene. Smartly juxtaposed with the past is Streb's present work in what she calls "popaction," testing the human body's physical limits and resilience like a scientist, with experiments that whirl bodies through space and smash them together like atoms in a supercollider.

Born to Fly captures fully both the danger in the work and the exhilaration the dancers get from it. Watching these athletic paragons perform gets the pulse racing, but not just from the risk; it's seeing bodies move in ways you know they never have in human history.


Born to Fly


Documentary Competition, World Premiere
Friday, March 14, 4:30pm, Vimeo

READ MORE
More South by Southwest
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
David Chang announced as featured speaker

Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2014

Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
'Honeymoon' and 'Thank You a Lot' picked up

Monica Riese, March 28, 2014

More SXSW
SXSW Announces Keynotes, First Speakers
SXSW Announces Keynotes, First Speakers
Geneticist, Transparent creator head up first round

Richard Whittaker, July 25, 2016

Austin Filmmakers Make International Festival Waves
Austin Filmmakers Make International Festival Waves
Watch out Chicago (and Montreal, and Edinburgh, and London)

Richard Whittaker, July 17, 2016

More by Robert Faires
Hyde Park Theatre's <i>The Flick</i>
Hyde Park Theatre's The Flick
Annie Baker's drama movingly shows us that the drama in a movie theatre isn't only on the screen

July 22, 2016

Austin Chamber Music Festival: Marian Anderson String Quartet
Austin Chamber Music Festival: Marian Anderson String Quartet
At the end of a tragic week, this group of gifted African-American women reached for grace and tendered it to us

July 15, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, documentary, review, Born to Fly, Catherine Gund, Elizabeth Streb, Fabio Tavares, dance, circus arts

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)