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2007 Sundance fave gets a fresh infusion

'How She Move' opens with enhanced sound and a reshot finale thanks to some distributor cash.

January 21, 2008|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

The urban dance drama "How She Move" was nominated for the grand jury and audience award prizes at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. It was quickly snapped up for distribution by Paramount Vantage, and now, a year later, the Canadian production about a daughter of Jamaican immigrants who step-dances her way to fulfilling her dreams opens in theaters Friday.

The movie has undergone fine-tuning during the interval.

"Paramount gave us some money to enhance the film, which was incredibly useful," says director Ian Iqbal Rashid ("Touch of Pink"). "Initially, we shot the movie in 25 days. It was incredibly tight. There were a number of things we were disappointed in that Paramount allowed us to redress."

The film includes 14 dance numbers, for example. But because of the short shooting schedule, Rashid never had more than three hours to capture any of them.

"I found a way to make it work," he says, "but the finale never had the muscle that it needed, the end-of-the-movie feel. So we reshot that. We also did tons of work on the sound. The first time, we couldn't afford an orchestra for our score, so we redid the score. And we didn't have the money for foley [sound effects] to get the kind of stepping sounds, so we worked that out in postproduction."

"How She Move" stars newcomer Rutina Wesley as Raya Green, who lives with her immigrant parents in the poor, crime-infested Jane-Finch Corridor in Toronto. Raya pushes her way onto an all-male neighborhood step team in hopes that the crew will win $50,000 in a national dance contest, which would allow her to pursue her dreams of a better life.

Rashid felt a real kinship to Raya. A Muslim of Indian descent, he was born in Tanzania.

"The British brought over a lot of Indians as indentured laborers in the early part of the last century to build the railroads in East Africa," he explains. "But when the British left in the 1960s, it became quite tough for Indians who were left behind. There was a lot of tension and conflict, and Indians pretty much had to leave."

His family fled, taking only what they could pack in their suitcases. "At that time, Canada was looking for immigrants," he says, so the family settled in Toronto's Flemington Park, which is similar to Jane-Finch. "It's a heavily immigrant neighborhood, very Caribbean at that time, so what happens in the film is very familiar to me."

So how does "How She Move" differ from such other urban dance films as "Stomp the Yard"?

"This is a film about the scars of immigration," he explains.

"Her mother's immigration has failed on some level, and she's projecting all of her ambitions on her daughter. That is what fuels the story and gives the film a kind of resonance and poignancy."

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susan.king@latimes.com

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