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DID YOU READ

Tribeca ’08: Dori Berinstein on “Gotta Dance”

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04292008_gottadance1.jpgBy Stephen Saito

[For complete coverage of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, check out IFC’s Tribeca page.]

It’s not unusual to see a filmmaker appear at two different festivals in two months, but usually, it’s with the same film. If Dori Berinstein is aiming to be the most popular documentarian around, she’s certainly not wasting time.

After wowing audiences at SXSW only a month ago with “Some Assembly Required,” a film that followed a kiddie competition to build a new toy, Berinstein is back at Tribeca with another crowd-pleaser, “Gotta Dance,” which goes to the opposite end of the age spectrum to chronicle the inaugural season of the Netsationals, a dance squad comprised of 60-year-olds and above. (It actually makes sense that their jersey numbers reflect their ages, which top out at 83.) While some of the dancers in “Gotta Dance” have a reverse legacy — their granddaughters are on the official Nets dance team — most are amateurs there to find fun and in some cases, themselves. If that sounds a lot like another senior citizen documentary making the rounds, trust us when we say these seniors follow the beat of a different drummer — or rather, Fat Joe.

Berinstein is no stranger to multitasking, considering that she also produces Broadway shows, a subject that became the inspiration for her first documentary, “Show Business.” Still, in the midst of her festival two-step, she found time to talk about the senior dancers that brought a smile to Walt Frazier’s face and her own complicated dance during the past year.

“Some Assembly Required” and “Gotta Dance” are opposites in many ways, but geographically, you had to cover so much ground on “Some Assembly Required” that it must’ve been kind of a relief to do “Gotta Dance,” which was all set in New Jersey.

Yes and no. It was more complicated than that because I did post-production on “Some Assembly Required” in Los Angeles. I really wasn’t expecting to be shooting “Gotta Dance.” It just came up, and I can explain how it happened, but I was much more West Coast when I was shooting this East Coast movie. I produce Broadway shows, and when we were launching production on “Gotta Dance,” I had to be in San Francisco with “Legally Blonde” [for preview performances], so I basically spent last spring on an airplane.

04292008_gottadance2.jpgWhy did you choose to make your life so crazy?

I didn’t think it was going to be a problem to do a film and a Broadway show at the same time. They both gestate for a long time and there was no way to avoid overlap there and that would’ve been fine. But in the back of my mind, I’d been thinking about wanting to do a film on the issue of aging. I didn’t want it to be talking heads, I didn’t want it to be in your face. I wanted it to be fun and celebratory and all about taking advantage of this time to chase your dreams. I had no plans to start a new project. No plans! But I read in the paper that the Nets were holding this audition for a senior dance team and I had to check it out. I went to the Nets headquarters and started to get to know these incredible people, and I had to tell their story.

Was it an interesting experience to go from being around young kids in “Some Assembly Required” to seniors?

It was fantastic. With both the kids and the seniors, everybody got comfortable with the cameras and we became just a familiar fly on the wall. I find that with kids and with the senior group, it’s easier than shooting with…let’s just say 18 to 55, who are more aware of the camera and are thinking about consequences. Both the kids and the seniors were completely lost in what they were doing and so passionate [it] that they forgot the camera was there.

During the film, the Netsationals get quite a bit of media attention. Did their growing celebrity pose a problem for you?

The only thing I noticed after they received so much attention from the press and made so many appearances is that they knew the drill. When I had to put a lav on them, they knew exactly what to do. [laughs] They were seasoned in that way. But I wasn’t there to capture their performing, I was there to capture their struggle, their adventure. I was with them when it was all happening for the first time — their joy and surprise, looking at themselves in newspapers and on TV. They were, overjoyed and it was exciting to capture that.

Between the dance performances, you let the camera roll on some interesting dinner conversations. How did those come about?

When we were with [the Netsationals] as a group, they were rehearsing, moving, very focused on what they were doing. The conversation was not about their lives and their families and their past, it was about how you do a swivel hip, how you do that kick. It didn’t give us the chance to see them in a broader way.

When they started to get comfortable with each other and started to go out together to meals and dinners, we asked to tag along because that was when the conversation became much more diverse. They started to talk about issues having to do with their lives and, in a bigger way, what they thought about what they were doing, that wouldn’t have happened while they were taking a break from their rehearsals. They enjoy each other so much — when Fanny [one of the older Netsationals] took them all line dancing, that was so much fun.

04292008_gottadance3.jpgThere are a lot of poignant moments in the film — one I found particularly moving was when Betty (a school teacher who becomes one of the dancers) is shopping at Macy’s and tells the other dancers how she never wanted to wear heels because she didn’t want to appear to be taller than her husband — did those moments catch you off guard?

I loved it. [laughs] I adore Betty so much because she wears her heart on her sleeve, her struggle to figure out who she is now in her sixties. I know people of that age who are going through the same thing, so I was thrilled to be able to capture that honesty, that everybody was so supportive of her as she was trying to figure out who she is. That camaraderie and the support that they all have for each other was a lovely thing to capture.

Do you have a particular favorite moment?

I would say that first performance, when they were so nervous and they have such self-doubt not only about their ability to remember everything and to put on a good show, but [because] they had no idea how the audience was going to react. It was thrilling to be there with them when they took a deep breath and went for it out on there on center court and the roof of the Meadowlands just went flying off. They were just embraced by the fans, and their joy afterwards, their exhilaration, was really exciting. We all had goosebumps.

So many documentaries are serious, and between “Some Assembly Required,” “Gotta Dance” and your first documentary “Show Business,” it seems like you’re rebelling against that. How did you decide to become the fun documentary filmmaker?

I’m glad that you feel they’re fun, but I think that, to me, what’s common about all of them is that they’re about people chasing their dreams and giving their dream everything they’ve got, throwing their complete passion into something, regardless of the risks. You have that in “Show Business,” you have that with the kids starting from a blank page and surprising themselves at what they’ve been able to create together as a team and then certainly with the seniors, most of them really in a million years never thought they’d be doing what they’re doing. They’re very much about chasing your dreams and being the best you can be — that that’s the common thread. I love stories like that. All these people that I’ve been able to capture really inspire me.

[Photos: “Gotta Dance,” Dramatic Forces, 2008]

For more on “Gotta Dance,” check out the official site here.

IFC_Portlandia-S8_best-of-skits_subaru-blog

Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

IFC_Portlandia-S8_pick-a-lane_subaru-blog

Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…