When the Beat Drops

Director: Jamal Sims
2018 | USA | 86m
GENRE: Bisexual | Black/African American | Dance | Documentary | Gay | Lesbian | Music/Music Videos | Queer
SECTION: Centerpiece | Documentary
Expected Guests: Director, Jamal Sims, Subject, Anthony Davis, Producer, Jordan Finnegan


Defined by dynamic and unified movements and full of bold pageantry, fierce style, and undeniable form, “bucking” is a dance subculture that is slowly entering the mainstream. More than two decades old, it was created by African American gay men in the South as a response to being excluded from participation in majorette routines, due to homophobia and societal pressure.

In When the Beat Drops—a feature documentary debut by famed choreographer Jamal Sims, whose credits include RuPaul’s Drag Race, So You Think You Can Dance, and Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour—the origins and evolution of bucking are explored, as are the life stories and struggles of various Atlanta performers. Doing what Paris Is Burning (Frameline14) and Rize did for ball culture and “krumping” respectively, When the Beat Drops offers an electrifying first cinematic glimpse into the phenomenon of “bucking,” featuring ecstatic dance sequences throughout the film. Anthony, a survivor of violence that threatened his ability to perform, is the creator of one of the leading bucking groups in the city; Flash is a radio personality with a gay mom who has been in and out of jail for half of his life; and Napoleon is a teacher who also runs a non-profit music advocacy group.

Many of the performers risk corporate jobs to follow their passion for dance, build up the community, and remain true to themselves. And the candid conversations with team captains about issues and stigma within the community make the film truly shine. Presenting an intimate look at the performers’ dedication to their chosen families and their craft, When the Beat Drops culminates in an edge-of-your-seat, intense competition celebrating triumph, athleticism, and artistry.


Gilead Sciences, Inc.

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