« THE FITS » : AN EXPERIMENTAL JOURNEY INTO DRILL WORLD

MEETING WITH “THE FITS” DIRECTOR, ANNA ROSE HOLMER

An extraordinary cross between an American indie film and a music video, The Fits – the debut feature from director Anna Rose Holmer – impresses both by its documentary accuracy and its striking originality. Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, The Fits won the critics award at the 42nd Deauville Film Festival. Speaking with Crash, Anna Rose Holmer reveals all the secrets from behind the scenes of this magnificent film.

A unique and unsettling film, The Fits follows the story of Toni, an eleven-year-old girl who spends her days training at a boxing gym with her brother until she discovers a local high school drill team. Drawn to this new world of hip hop-inspired dance, she joins the Lions drill team and pours herself body and soul into this new discipline. But soon some of the young woman on the team start to come down with mysterious convulsions, echoing the real-life cases of collective stress that inspired the director in this exploration of the dance world’s imperative of losing control: “Toni thinks the choreography is about precision and about following the steps exactly, but it’s about moving beyond the steps because it’s a creative space where you have to give up control to perform,” explains Anna Rose Holmer. So much more than a traditional dance movie, the feature’s poetic dialogue and stunning art explore femininity and the life of the emotions through music and movement: “Often times, films about young women in these moments focus on sexual awakening. But I was more interested in this space before sexual awakening: something else that has more to do with self-identity and self-exploration,” tells the director. In fact, the film was not originally intended to take place in an exclusively African-American community in Cincinnati or even to focus on a drill team. It was purely by chance, after several months spent scouring YouTube, that the director finally stumbled upon the talented Royalty Hightower (who plays Toni) and her dance troop, the Q Kidz: “When I found Q Kidz on YouTube, it was kind of an immediate feeling. I asked them right away to collaborate on adapting my draft of the script to fit this world of drill,” she recounts. Royalty Hightower perfectly incarnates Toni, a young woman who combines unflagging determination with a touching note of fragility, delivering a brilliant performance that showcases all of her on-screen talent. “I co-wrote the film with two other women and we are all of different ethnicity. Yet there was always this idea that Toni was part of all of us and I still feel that way when I see Royalty on screen,” adds the director. Indeed, Anna Rose Holmer has captured all the ups and downs of the terrifying transition from childhood to adolescence in this powerful coming-of-age story set to the rhythm of dance.

Text by Apolline Frimont

THE FITS

A film by Anna Rose Holmer with Royalty Hightower
in theaters on January 4, 2017

Crash 78, The Art Issue digital & print versions are available online 

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Jan 05, 2017
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