James Newton (UK, International Spectrum)
Friday, April 29, 8 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
Sunday, May 1 4:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)
Sunday, May 8, 6:45 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)
What’s better than one Billy Elliot? Eight Billy Elliots. For those who think this might be an attempt at a shortcut to review a film called Boy Cheerleaders, be assured the film invokes this parallel itself. Originally broadcast on the BBC, director James Newton captures the all-boys cheer squad, the DAZL Diamonds from South Leeds, on their journey to the top of the competitive cheerleading pyramid—the first and only boy’s team to do so.
The DAZL Diamonds are a motley crew of young boys, ranging from about eight to 13 in age, who really love to dance. Some boys joined since they were bullied out of rugby, others split their time between pom-poms and the pitch, while some are genuine Billy Elliots, trying out at the Northern Ballet Academy. But unlike Billy Elliot, Boy Cheerleaders doesn’t only focus on the individual. While the documentary does centre around Harvey (the most Billy-esque of all the boys) as we follow him to his auditions, it is also invested in two other members of the team, Elliot and Josh. Further, these individual stories are tightly woven into the broader group dynamic as they train for the annual national cheerleading competition. While the boys may be the stars their mothers (all the families featured were single mums) and the head coach Ian Rodley (the most unsuspecting of role models in a tough South Leeds estate) round out the documentary.
Unlike that dancing boy who has been previously cited numerous times, Boy Cheerleaders doesn’t suggest dance as means of escape from poverty, but rather as a means of expression. As Ian says at the end: “We just proved boys can do whatever they want.” That statement, like the film, isn’t revolutionary but it’s certainly touching.