Thursday, 13 June 2013

From YouTube to the big screen, Filipino prisoners dance to fame

MANILA (Reuters) - They first gained fame on YouTube, dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". Now,

the orange-uniformed men at a central Philippine jail make their big screen debut in a movie about

prison reforms.

The 98-minute movie, "Dance of the Steel Bars", was shot at the Cebu Provincial Detention and

Rehabilitation Centre, with 750 prisoners forming the backdrop to a story about an American wrongly

accused of murder and the bond he forms with a fellow inmate with a talent for dance.

"This film talks about redemption, about brotherhood," Cesar Apolinario, a television journalist and

the film's co-director, told Reuters. "I did not only see them as brilliant dancers, but they are actually

brilliant actors."

The plot revolves around the real-life reforms carried out in the Cebu jail, where a security adviser

introduced daily dance routines in 2007 to instil discipline and camaraderie.

The film was screened inside the Cebu jail on June 7.

"I'm thrilled to see it. And my family will be happy to see the film," said one of the inmates, Macario


The fast-paced movie features fight scenes portraying gang wars, common in crowded Philippine

prisons, juxtaposed with dance sequences in the jail courtyard familiar to millions who have viewed

the inmates' Michael Jackson tributes.

"We did not simplify the steps for them," said Los Angeles-based dancer Cindera Che, who

choreographed four dance sequences. "We want them to rise up, to our level. And they did."

The producers are betting on the inmates' Internet fame for the project's commercial success. The

prisoners' dance on YouTube has been viewed by more than 40 million people, said Stu Higton,

executive producer of Dubai-based Portfolio Films International.

"Dance of the Steel Bars" opened in the Philippines on Wednesday and will be distributed in Asia, the

Middle East and the United States.

(Reporting By Michaela Cabrera; Writing by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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