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by Rose Finlay

Thierry Demaizière, Alban Teurlai, France 2022

For students of the Hip-Hop department of the Lycée Turgot in Paris, students not only work towards a secondary-school academic diploma, but also train to become professional dancers. Since 2016, students from all over France have been allowed to apply for the program, and each year there are almost 100 applicants for only 16 places. Directors Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai allow the camera to focus on a group of teens as they struggle to find their place at the school both academically and with their dance.

As the opening film of the Generation 14+ program, ROOKIES is an energetic and intimate glimpse at the realities of such a diverse program. The teachers try their best to connect with students from a wide variety of backgrounds, but it is revealed that even the best of intentions can often fall short when trying to help students who are ethnically diverse, or whose social-economic statuses are very different than they are used to. The students themselves are very open to the camera, and the best parts of the documentary are when they are talking amongst themselves, revealing motivations behind their sometimes self-destructive behaviors. While ROOKIES is perhaps not the most groundbreaking of documentaries, it is pleasant and reveals simple truths about the realities of teaching and reaching young people through the power of dance.