‘I dance as if I have a gun to my head’ – 89-minutes of cutthroat dancing from ZA is here

The long awaited South African full-length documentary The African Cypher (from 2012) is finally out and here to amaze; 89-minutes of raw dancing and cutthroat stories by ZA’s finest street crews.

We fell in love with the trailer (above) and urge you to stream the full length version (like, yesterday). Why? Because it’s a piece that screams raw talent. The African Cypher is here to set the message straight: dance like this slays.

Still from ‘The African Cypher’ Photo by: Filipa Domingues

It’s being described as the ‘birth place of ritual, celebration, council, story-telling and dance’ and tells the story of thriving street dance crews from South Africa, showcasing the talent the country has been blessed with.

The film was technically finished in 2012, but abruptly put on hold due to Pantsula-dancer Prince (member of the Shakers and Movers) passing in 2015, leaving the film crew heartbroken:   

– This is part of the reason we took so long to release the film. When Prince was diagnosed with Cancer in 2013, we put everything on hold to help him. He changed our lives forever and we didn’t think twice to drop everything and try help save him. We knew it was impossible, but love can do that to you. His loss was and still is deeply traumatic for us. I get emotional every time I think about it or write about it. We felt that we needed to add the 7 mins at the end of the film with what happened to Prince to have final closure and we want people to see how many people around the world he touched, says producer and photographer Filipa Domingues.

  • Shakers & Movers Pantsula Amsterdam 2012 freestyle session 2. Featuring the late Prince Mofokeng

    – I dance as if I have a gun to my head. (quote from The African Cypher)

When asked what viewers can expect from the film, Filipa shares:

– I think people can expect to watch a genuine experience as to what it’s like to be a dancer living in the townships of South Africa. We decided to get to know them properly first, before shooting, to get them comfortable around us to the point where they told their story as opposed to us telling their story. This is one of the reasons I think this film has struck a chord with so many people. People really do appreciate honesty and that’s something you can’t fake.

….and continues:

– What’s important about this film is that a lot of films out there are about “poor people in Africa” and often portraying the people as desperate and unhappy, that they need to be saved from their terrible situation. I believe we broke a stereotype of telling the whole story and not the single sided story. And that’s why I think people should see it. That, and I want people to meet Prince. I want people to know his story. He was a truly inspiring, beautiful human being and I want Prince to be remembered and celebrated forever.

Still from ‘The African Cypher’ Photo by: Filipa Domingues

Here’s the story of heroic dancing and features the most courageous and passionate dancers you’ll ever see. The message is of joy and of hope. Let it have you in every moment. See it, love it!

Watch the trailer above or full length version available here.

For more info on the film visit The African Cypher on FB.

All stills courtesy of Filipa Domingues.


Directed by: Bryan Little // Produced by: Filipa Domingues // Cinematography by: Grant Appleton // Edited by: Grant Birch // Sound design and composition by: Simon Kohler// Featured Dance crews: Shakers&Movers, Soweto :: Real Actions, Orange Farm :: Red for Danger, Mohtlakeng :: Artistic Intelligence , Jozi :: Afro Tribal, Soweto :: Ubuntu BBoys, Cape Town :: RFK, Cape Town :: Genesis Kings, Durban // A Fly on the Wall production