5 Rules of Kizomba tells the story of a cheating boyfriend (played by Chouaib Ammari) who finally learns to abandon his playboy ways after getting a hard lesson in the dos-and-don’ts of kizomba etiquette from a very street-wise dance partner (Jane Volynchuk). But, first… what is kizomba?
Kizomba is a genre of music and social dance that originated in Africa in the mid-1980s. The word itself means ‘party’ in Kimbundu – a Bantu language spoken in Angola – and is also used as an umbrella expression to include several other dance styles that have since derived from it.
For writer-director Sergey Khromykh, his experience of the art form is something which has followed him to his current base in Guangzhou from his native Russia.
“The first time I heard about kizomba was in 2013. A friend of mine offered to get some dance classes at a studio in Vladivostok,” he says. “We actually wanted to take Latin dance classes, but when we arrived at the studio, we found out that they didn’t start for a few hours and, instead, there was a class for kizomba. So we tried, and I fell in love with it.”
Working in southern China under his Bursa Production banner as a cinematographer and director on various TVCs, promos and music videos, Sergey was finally inspired to shoot his film after seeing a funny sketch recorded by a dance instructor about five things you should not do when you dance kizomba.
“After the initial idea, it was put into the drawer for around half a year, but there was this inner feeling that I must do it,” he recalls. “This thought just didn’t let go, so I started developing the story further. And, the more it took shape and came to its final outline state, the more I felt that we were going to make the film for sure.”
I only had a blurry idea of what the dance scene would look like, but I kept moving forward.
Developing ‘a zero budget production’ with minimal crew, Sergey was able to reach out to various kizomba instructors and enthusiasts he knew, who helped bring the project to life with both their acting skills and their dance moves.
“For me, the process was full of excitement. It was my second short, but the idea was several times more complicated [than my previous film], as it had more characters, more locations and – more importantly – a dance scene,” he says. “Honestly when I laid it down on the page, I only had a blurry idea of what the dance scene would look like, but I kept moving forward.”
With a substantial portion of the film set on a street at night, Sergey and his crew were often forced to shoot from midnight until 3 or 4AM in order to avoid crowds of people, and working around the busy schedules of cast members meant spreading production out over a couple of months.
“Time and locations were the biggest challenge. The main requirements for the night location were that it needed to be empty, spacious and have nice vibrant lighting,” he explains. “I spent almost a month searching [until we found] a tea market which had two huge red and green billboards lighting up the street – purely cinematic. I was super happy about that.”
That very first day […] – that was a moment of adrenaline.
Nevertheless, despite the challenges they faced together, Sergey adds that working with the people he had on the project produced more than its share of memorable highlights.
“Rehearsals – this was one of the moments when the creative process manifested ideas which I hadn’t put on paper before and which really improved the script or added some nice touches to the scenes and the action,” he says. “And, the filming itself. That very first day, when we organized people, making sure everyone arrived on time and all the props were set, hoping that location was still there and not closed or obstructed – that was a moment of adrenaline.”
At the same time, Sergey says the task of taking a personal project from initial concept all the way through production and post-production to become a completed short taught him a number of important lessons as a filmmaker.
“First, you really can’t control everything – patience is a real tool you need to develop. And, second, is dedication. A team of dedicated people is just a must,” he states. “Last, is creativity. When something can’t be done as you intended, you need to come up with a workaround – and it must be good and actually look kind of like you planned it that way.”
Following an exclusive screening in Guangzhou and quick tour of the international festival circuit – where it picked up a number of best film and best director awards – 5 Rules of Kizomba is currently set for public internet release this month. Nevertheless, Sergey says he already has his sights set on a number of additional projects.
“There are a couple of other short screenplays that I hope I can do this year. I also have a couple more ambitious feature film ideas,” he says. “Writing them is much harder than ten-page shorts, but I want to complete this challenge and get a feature script done. I also want to experiment in other genres and actually come up with more ‘mature’ stories and dive into sci-fi.”
Finally, Sergey emphasizes he just wants to thank all of the crew, actors and extras who contributed to making the picture and adds that he is really happy with what 5 Rules of Kizomba has been able to achieve so far.
“I don’t expect people to extract something deeply philosophical from it – the movie isn’t like this,” he concludes. “But I do hope they will have fun watching it, I hope they will love the characters, and I hope they will not do the five things that they shouldn’t do when they dance kizomba.”