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Olympic speedskater J.R. Celski documents Macklemore and Seattle hip-hop in 'The Otherside'
J.R. Celski's timing must be impeccable when he's on the race track. Everything must be in perfect sync for the world-class short track speedskater to glide across the ice.
Arms working with legs, slanting his back so it's situated at the correct angle and keeping everything coordinated in the most aerodynamic position are key to going fast.
Timing is everything for Celski, a two-time bronze medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games who is currently training for the 2014 Olympics in Russia. The Federal Way native won the 2012 overall title at the U.S. Senior Short Track Speedskating National Championships in December, and set the world record in the 500 meters.
But Celski's current timing might be even better off the track. His documentary, "The Otherside," is debuting at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) next weekend. It will be shown at the SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle at 7 p.m. May 31, and again at 8:30 p.m. June 2, as part of the "Face the Music" program.
Directed by Daniel Torok, the 47-minute film takes an inside look at the Seattle hip-hop scene and centers on the meteoric rise of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the local artists responsible for the documentary's title.
"The Otherside," which is co-produced by Celski's longtime friend and Todd Beamer grad Vinny Dom, puts together live performances, interviews with artists and promoters, music videos and rare backstage footage.
(Pictured: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform in the documentary "The Otherside.")
"Originally we had planned to make the movie last year, but it kind of worked out when we saw how much momentum (Macklemore) is getting right now," Dom said. "We tried to make it so his success story kind of drove the movie."
Although the documentary is angled toward Macklemore and Lewis, who have a pair of Billboard No. 1 singles to their credit, it also explores the eclectic mix of artists that define Northwest hip-hop — as they work to conquer a genre that has long been inaccessible to a city void of major record labels.
"For everyone else in Seattle, they are still on their grind, working another job trying to make it big," Dom said.
The idea for "The Otherside" all started in the summer of 2010, after Celski brought home a pair of bronze medals from the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. Celski, along with Torok, Dom and Terrence Santos, organized a benefit concert at Seattle Children's Hospital with some of Seattle's hip-hop artists, including Macklemore, Grynch, Wizdom and Massive Monkees.
The concert didn't go off as planned, according to Celski.
"After the Olympics, the timing just didn't work out," he said. "It was just too short of a time period for how big of a concert I wanted to do. So I actually got in touch with the artists, and they were all for it, and very positive in what they had to say. And from there, the documentary took off."
Celski has said that his connection with the Seattle hip-hop scene started after he suffered a devastating leg injury at the 2010 U.S. Olympic Trials. A razor-sharp skate sliced a gash that required 60-plus stitches to close.
"The music has such a positive and genuine feel to it and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible," he said. "A lot of lyrics, especially Macklemore's, made me question who I was and how I looked at things. More specifically, to challenge the ego that keeps us suppressed and susceptible to weak emotions. I felt like everybody should hear what these artists had to say."
The filming of "The Otherside" has been an on-again, off-again endeavor for the past two years, but has been steady for the last year.
"We went to a whole mix of local shows," said Dom, who graduated from the University of Washington. "We wanted to first show the diversity of the types of sounds coming from here for those not familiar with the hip-hop scenes. We followed Macklemore way before he got where he is now. We've seen the work and dedication that he put into his music."
Other Seattle hip-hop artists featured in "The Otherside" include the Blue Scholars, Fresh Espresso, Massive Monkees, Mad Rad, RA Scion, Grynch, The Physics and many more.
"People can expect a film that showcases the diverse sounds and styles of the Northwest, with stories of struggle, success, and everything in between," Celski said. "This documentary will give you a taste of how it all fits within the current state of the music industry and what some artists are doing to get their careers to the next level."
(Pictured: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us" at We Day Seattle on March 27 at Key Arena.)
To learn more about "The Otherside" and the Seattle International Film Festival, visit www.siff.net/festival-2013/otherside.