Reel Asian Review: Prison Dancer

The inmates begin a rehabilitation program using group dance in "Prison Dancer"

Screening as part of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Prison Dancer is a film about six inmates at a maximum security prison who use group dancing to help rehabilitate inmates. Inspired by an actual program used in a prison that eventually became a viral video, Prison Dancer uses song, dance, and a little bit of humour to tell a story of life, death, hopes, and dreams. Presented as “performative cinema”, this screening combines video, live performance and audience participation to offer a truly unique cinematic experience.

Directed by Romeo Candido, Prison Dancer has been a web series and a stage musical, and is certainly unlike anything this reviewer has seen before. The talent involved come from various backgrounds including Broadway, film, and even YouTube, coming together to create a funny and touching film.

If there is anything that will turn people off about Prison Dancer , it’s going to be the musical selections. There will be those who just don’t enjoy the R&B-tinged pop music, and since a majority of the film involves singing, it could be a challenge to enjoy. Even if the musical style doesn’t interest you, the idea of “performative cinema” should provide a very unique experience. The music is well done, the story woven between songs actually has some very moving moments, and it feels like watching a videotaped Broadway play which will appeal to certain audience members.

Is Prison Dancer Essential RAFF Viewing?

This will be one of those yes and no answers. To make it easy, watch the trailer. If you enjoy the music there, you’ll enjoy the film. Even if the music doesn’t appeal to you, the idea that the screening will combine video, live performance, and audience participation, should make the viewing a unique experience that you won’t want to miss.

Prison Dancer Screening Times

More About This Movie

Prison Dancer Trailer

Prison Dancer Production Gallery


Raised on a healthy diet of Star Wars and every horror film on a video store shelf, Will has been watching movies since before he was able to talk. Inspired by an ever growing passion for film, and the occasional mind control experiment, Will began writing film review on his personal blog, The Film Reel. When the mind control experiments actually worked, he was able to secure a position with Toronto Film Scene. He now waits patiently in the TFS basement for October to come every year, when his love for horror films finally pays off.

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