The music talent of the evening was Grand Analog, a Canadian Hip Hop Band fronted by Odario Williams. Their sound is influenced by jazz, reggae, and rock; combined to create a hip hop vibe. Grand Analog thrilled and entertained the crowd with their unique sound and also used some of their stage time to film clips for one of their music videos.
Director: Anna Rose Holmer
Cast: Royalty Hightower (Toni), Alexis Neblett (Beezy), Makyla Burnam (Legs), Da’Sean Minor (Jermaine), Lauren Gibson (Maia), Inayah Rodgers (Karisma), Antonio A.B. Grant Jr. (Donte)
The Fits is a drama that was screened at the 2016 Toronto Open Roof Film Festival. It is a coming of age story about Toni (Royalty Hightower), an adolescent girl who is on the cusp of discovering herself and navigating the changes brought on by the transition from child to teenager.
Toni spends her free time working in a gym with her older brother (Da’Sean Minor), who is very protective of her. She is an athlete and enjoys boxing. In the same gym, there are a group of girls, all around her age, in a dance group called The Lionesses. Toni develops an interest in the group, and secretly longs to join them, but is torn between pursing dancing and staying in boxing with her brother and the other boys at the gym. She is also hesitant due to her own fears and insecurities of not fitting in.
Eventually, Toni musters the courage to audition for the group. She watches and performs the rigorous routines along with the other new recruits. At first, it is hard for her to catch on but, with time, she becomes familiar with the moves. She meets some friends along the way and goes as far as piercing her ears to fit in with her new group. During this time, a strange phenomenon starts occurring. A number of the girls are taken over by convulsions referred to as “the fits”. The girls lose control of their bodies and fall into a trance like state, involving choking, convulsions, and fainting. The experience for each girl is different and soon spreads like a contained outbreak within the group.
The events in the film transpire in an eerie fashion, with a tone similar to ones in horror and gothic films. The struggle between individuality and conformity is a common theme throughout the film. Toni has a strong sense of self but, at the same time, she wants to be part of a group with other young girls, with whom she shares something in common. The use of dance and choreography to convey emotions and life stages is what makes The Fits such a fascinating film. Toni’s journey throughout the film is captured and intensified in a way that allows the audience to immerse itself in the story and see the world through Toni’s eyes, so to speak.
An interesting fact about the cast of The Fits is that they are all first time actors and actresses. The cast consists of boxers and dancers from Cincinnati’s Queen City boxing club and the Q-Kidz, a local community dance team that was found online by the director. The star of the film, Royalty Hightower, was nine when the film was being made and her outstanding performance, which is just a taste of the talent she has to offer, has propelled her onto to greater things.
The film will appeal to anyone who has an interest in non-traditional storytelling, choreography, interpretive pieces, movement, and dance.