MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 27, 2021: LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD

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In a social media world full of misinformation and over-filtered influencers, it’s always refreshing to encounter a creator who’s genuine, whose passion is about what they do, rather than just getting people to smash the subscribe button. That description perfectly fits accomplished domino-toppler Lily Hevesh, the subject of Jeremy Workman’s charming documentary Lily Topples the World. Ambitious but understated, focused but unassuming, Lily has earned success through an all-too-rare combination of talent and authenticity.

The film introduces viewers to Hevesh, her family, her friends, and her colleagues/fellow domino wranglers. We learn that she’s been setting dominoes up — and happily knocking them down — since childhood. Now tiptoeing into her 20s, she is perhaps the world’s best at what she does; her videos garner millions of views on YouTube, and she’s been commissioned by corporations, museums, and TV shows to create elaborate set-ups. Tension enters the story in the form of Hevesh having to decide whether to drop out of college (which she loves) to seize the moment and pursue domino toppling full-time. If she does, not only will the big jobs keep coming, but she might even score a deal to create her own line of dominoes.

Amid the swirling, multicolored, multileveled domino patterns that Lily and her compatriots create — which are absolutely mesmerizing to watch when they fall — we learn about her childhood as the adopted Chinese daughter of a White American couple. The Heveshes are loving, supportive parents (her dad is with Lily on most of her jobs), but issues related to identity and representation are inescapable. Hevesh is also the only woman in the internet’s small-but-close knit community of skilled domino topplers, a fact that she hid for the first few years she was running her YouTube channel.

It seems likely that Lily’s decision to reveal her true self is what helped set her on the path toward true domino domination. That, and her confidence in her skills. For although Lily might initially come across as timid, the movie makes it clear that she is quietly but staunchly uncompromising in her expectations and her vision, whether she’s planning her next big set-up or telling a room full of toy company executives how to improve their prototypes. And behind it all is the joy she finds in bringing her plans to life and sharing her love of domino-toppling with others as she follows her passion. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Pam Grady: Dominoes fall – over and over and over again in this exuberant documentary that profiles artist and mini-mogul Lily Hevesh. Few people find their calling so young, but Lily started toppling dominoes as a little girl and never stopped, her designs growing more and more elaborate and documented on YouTube, where she has amassed over 3 million followers. As a young adult working on commissions and demonstrations (including on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), her work requires thousands upon thousands of tiles and a mini army of helpers to build her ephemeral art that cascades – once the chain reaction of crashing dominoes start – into intricate patterns. Director Jeremy Workman delves into Lily’s life as the Asian daughter of white parents, how she turned something that is essentially play into a thriving business, and how she has managed to thrive and even dominate in a male-dominated niche. In her early 20s, she is part of a new breed of youth that is remaking the world on their own terms. If Lily and this film about her are any indication, Generation Z will do just fine.

Leslie Combemale There’s a fine line intersecting genius and passion. 22 year old Lily Hevesh, known on YouTube and around the domino-toppling world as Hevesh5 or H5, is one of literally a handful of professional Domino artists in the world. Her videos have been seen over a billion times. It isn’t, however, just the fact that she is one of the most recognized or prolific Domino artists that makes her so great. It’s the spectacularly creative way she designs her ‘builds’, and the passion with which she not only tackles her projects, but teaches about them to kids all over the world. Lily Topples the World makes its audience feel they really get to know Lily while celebrating her particular genius. All the builds shown within the doc’s running time add a can’t-look-away factor that makes the hour and thirty one minutes race by in the blink of an eye.

Susan Wloszczyna: Let’s just say that it is nearly impossible to not fall head over heels for the documentary Lily Topples the World. Its subject, 20-year-old Lily Hevesh, went from being a shy adoptee from China to becoming the Michelangelo of domino topplers via her YouTube videos that she started posting when she was just nine years old. Known as Hevesh5, she became lone female in an elite community of professional domino artists online and the most acclaimed with one billion digital views. Read full review.

Marilyn Ferdinand Jeremy Workman’s charming and inspiring documentary, Lily Topples the World, focuses on Lily Hevesh, a 20-year-old woman who is a celebrity in a community few older people know anything about—the YouTube world of domino art. Known by her millions of YouTube fans as Hevesh5, Lily is pursuing a career that involves setting up colored tiles in intricate patterns and structures and knocking them down in precise, mesmerizing order. Is it art? Absolutely, in the same manner as sand paintings are—ephemeral, but the product of infinite care and devotion. Read full review.

Loren King Jeremy Workman’s crowd pleaser of a film focuses mostly on the likable, modest Hevesh who’s been developing this odd skill since childhood and is now the preeminent domino artist in the world. The documentary is also about the YouTube age when the young and enterprising can quickly gain celebrity and even forge careers fromYouTube popularity. Lily Topples the World doesn’t delve deeply into this murky arena where worth is measured by numbers of subscribers. Hevesh certainly seems grounded and hard working enough to navigate it even as she decides early in the film to leave college to concentrate solely on her domino-related business opportunities and aspirations. Read full review.

Sherin Nicole Rumi said, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” Lily Topples the World has that love. Lily Hevesh is a domino artist who creates kinetic works of art and engineering; her imagination is a wonderland of movement, design, and surprises that is illuminated in this documentary by director Jeremy Workman. By the end, we can see that when we connect with our truths, we in turn connect with the world. As proof, we watch Lily inspire a variety of kids with an enthusiasm and kindness that encourages them to find beauty in what they enjoy doing. In that way, Lily doesn’t topple the world but helps to build it into something lovelier.

Jennifer Merin Jeremy Workman’s thoroughly delightful Lily Topples the World is a thoroughly engaging documentary that introduces us to Lily Hevesh, a gifted young artist with a winning personality and unique creative chops. In telling Lily’s story, the film also beautifully underscores the importance of family, community and intersectionality. And the visuals are seriously stupendous. You may never have heard of Lily before, but I promise that you’ll never forget her. Lily Topples the World is a real treat!!!

Sandie Angulo Chen: Lily Topples The World is a delightful look at Lily Hevesh, a pioneering young domino artist and YouTube star who grew her childhood hobby of building elaborate domino walls into a professional career. It’s a fascinating look at how a YouTube creator’s talent has allowed her to collaborate with other artists around the globe from the niche community. An undoubtedly inspiring tale for young content creators and artists who believe in their passions. Subcultures are often interesting, but Lily’s is remarkable because it’s not about fandom or collecting but about creating — a lot like LEGO artists who free build. Highly recommended for families with tween and teen YouTube and TikTok viewers.

Nell Minow: Sometimes everything comes down to a struggle between order and chaos. Lily Hevesh’s constructions made of dominoes are both, in the tradition of Tibetan monks making intricate sand Mandelas and then wiping them away, or artist Andy Goldsworthy making art from ice knowing it will melt. She spends hours, even days assembling her dominos so that the audience, in person or through her popular YouTube channel, can watch them fall down. This film gives us a chance to see the story behind the scenes of her colorful kinetic creations, and to ponder all of the elements that make the assembly of thousands of dominos the place where she feels safest and most herself.

Liz Whittemore Lily Hevesh builds mesmerizing creations with dominoes. From director Jeremy Workman and executive producer, Kelly Marie Tran in her first film in a producing role, Lily Topples The World follows Hevesh on a journey of self-discovery and entrepreneurship. Lily earns the genuine respect of her male peers, amassing millions of fans, all while remaining humble and hungry. Can she hustle the corporate world and navigate her artistry at the same time? Lily might be small in stature but she is a huge force to reckon with. We learn about her adoption, her childhood, and during the course of filming, we watch her grow into a fully self-aware young adult. With her simply stunning domino displays, Lily Topples The World gives parents and kids hope that nonconforming is still magical. It is triumphant. Lily Hevesh is the kind of role model we need on screen.

Cate Marquis Things certainly do fall in Lily Topples The World, not just dominoes but expectations, in Jeremy Workman’s documentary about Lily Hevesh, a charming, upbeat 20-year-old YouTube sensation who has been making astonishing, complex domino projects – and toppling them – since she was 9 or 10. Lily and her elaborate mind-boggling creations have been featured on the Today Show, Tonight Show, and countless news programs, and at conventions across the country and internationally. Combining her interest in building and engineering, with her persistence, perfection-driven and optimistic personality – and a very steady hand – Lily has risen to the top of the male-dominated field of domino creations toppling and turned an unusual hobby into both an art form and a budding artistic career and business.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Lily Topples the World

Director: Jeremy Workman

Release Date: August 27, 2021

Running Time: 90 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Documentary

Distribution Company: Discovery+

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

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Edited by Jennifer Merinmovie o

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).