[Fantasia 2021] Having “Dreams on Fire”

13 Aug

Dreams On Fire Film - World Premiere Glasgow Film Festival - GHQFantasia Film Festival 2021
North American Premiere

Moviegoers who love films about newcomers wanting to firmly establish themselves in the performing arts have seen this premise before. There’s an individual who wants to be recognized. But in order to do so usually means crossing the line or burning a bridge somewhere.

Yume (Bambi Naka) has Dreams on Fire–this film’s title. After watching a spectacular performance at a local theatre, all she wants to do is dance. She goes against her parents’ wishes and leaves the nest to find she’s alone. She’s nowhere close to getting auditions for those shows or being recognized, much less winning at street dance competitions. But there’s more to the art than having the moves. There’s also finding that drive to keep going. As Don Henley once sang, “She can’t feel the heat coming off the street.”

Much of the film is about finding that passion to make her that rising star. There’s also making those right contacts and willingness to make those deals with the devil if she wants that success. 

We’ve seen where innocence gets lost if not corrupted in older films like Showgirls. I want to make a comparison to Honey as that film addressed leaving all that’s important behind. As for Yume, how she’ll survive is what matters. Incidentally, her name means “dream” in Japanese.

Whether or not she achieves that success doesn’t matter for this work. It’s a beautifully choreographed film with a lot of dance numbers to marvel at and cameos. When the camera is making those medium or wide-shots, we can see why these dancers shine. Close-ups aren’t important. A lot of recognizable talents also make an appearance in this film, and it’s like a who’s who of multilple industries. We see Kazane, winner of the biggest dance competition in Japan (2019), MIWA, a dancer, Maiko Masai, a top choreographer, and Medusa Lee, one of many fashion models whom all are huge in Japan.

Dreams On Fire

I’m glad not all of this subculture is a product of a business people’s investments. Although, as Yume makes that obligatory descent to the underworld of fetish culture in strip clubs, we see the extremes she has to go through to make ends meet before acceptance comes.

It’s not even about those Idol groups who are trained at an early age to be top artists either. The torture those people gone through is revealed, and I thought the story was strange to show Yume getting protected and not see her doing the same for others starting out. They all have that uphill climb. This dancer finds a different kind of success, but as for how it happens, that’s an ending I won’t spoil.

The tale is rather long as the film clocks in at two hours. Not even the visions everyone has every night as they sleep last that long. When you wake up to reality, sometimes the experience was just that: a midsummer’s night dream, which is what I believe Montreal-born filmmaker Philippe McKie was going for. 

3½ Stars out of 5

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