Chicago Film Festival: Jump!

Dir: Helen Hood Scheer.

A documentary about the sport of Jumprope, a rising phenomenon in what appeared to be mostly inner cities. Despite not being an official sport for any schools, universities, etc., it’s highly organized with regionals, nationals and world championships. Film follows primarily kids from four (or five? i’m starting to forget) groups as they practice their routines, appear at the meets, etc. I was really into the Razzmatazz kids.
If the highlight of the Olympics for you is gymnastics, I think you’d probably enjoy this. These kids are pretty amazing athletes and their jumprope routines incorporate all kinds of tumbling/gymnastic skills as well as just plain muscle and endurance. There are speed competitions of several kinds, and jumprope routines done in singles, doubles, triples and quads. (When they get to worlds, seems like there are routines done there with many more kids at once.)

Unlike the competitive backstabbing world of gymnastics (no I’m not joking about that), and probably partially because this is a more intramural/extracurricular activity, these kids are very friendly with their opponents. Practicing together before meets, sharing new “tricks”, teaching younger kids… The sharing and “hey try this!” bit at the worlds is really cool, and very interesting to see the different styles evolving in different parts of the world: all the Asian kids seem to incorporate breakdancing into their jumprope routines!

And just like Olympic gymnasts, these are young kids, pouring their hearts into this sport, practicing for hours on end, devoting themselves physically AND mentally. Their collective goal is to get the sport into the Olympics. They need 5 continents (they have the 5), 74 or 75 countries (they only have about 35 right now) and all under the same rules (that part was unclear). Seems less structured rule & scoring wise than gymnastics, which is something that probably comes with regulation / the more structured a sport it becomes, the more spontaneity it will lose.

Made me cry several times. Really engaging.