PENCIL TRIBE SCORE: 7.5/10 (Very Good)
Film available on PBS.org (until October 23, 2009): http://www.pbs.org/pov/bronxprincess/
DVD available online: http://www.bronxprincess.com/about.php
HDCAM Digital Video
Length: 38 min
Directed and Produced by Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed
Executive Producer: Marco Williams
If you love low-budget, independent productions that tell real human stories of real-life characters then you won’t be amiss with BRONX PRINCESS. The film is a documentary shot from the Point of View (POV) of the main character, 17-year-old girl, Rocky Otoo. It follows her journey from adolescence into young adulthood and from her home in the Bronx, New York to Accra, Ghana where her parents are from originally and her father is a local chief. The film was mostly shot in the summer between Rocky’s high school senior year and her matriculation as a freshman at Dickinson College and is set primarily in Accra, Ghana in West Africa.
Several interesting themes are raised in the film, the most important of which appear to be generational gap, personal identity and culture clash. The main conflict that drives the film is the constant clash between the confident, sassy protagonist, Rocky and her parents over her lifestyle and personal choices. The main reasons for this conflict appear to be the generational gap between them as well as the differences in traditional Ghanaian culture and American (urban) culture. Not surprisingly, Rocky , who is doubtlessly talented and full of promise, navigates these opposing strands with some difficulty and struggles to hybridize the dual influences that shape her life. No wonder, even her accent is a peppered mixture of Ghanaian and urban New York accents as are her tastes and aspects of her lifestyle.
The film is essentially a coming-of-age story in the sense that the protagonist, Rocky, is at a period of transition in her life: from seventeen to eighteen (and with it, the freedom of young adulthood), from high-school to college and from total dependence on her parents to near-complete independence. However, unlike the classic coming-of-age story, Rocky never experiences a single particular growth, revelatory or epiphany moment—that “aha!” point in time that would plunge her into the grown up world and tip her transition. Instead, her visit from her mother’s home in the Bronx to her dad’s palace in Ghana, serves as the bridge of her transition and a means to reconnect her to her native roots. One of the few weaknesses of the film is that by focusing mainly on the external action, it does not sufficiently capture the interior growth and development of the main character and hence it’s hard to judge how Rocky really changed during her transition.
Overall, the film is brilliant for its fresh perspective, authenticity and good storytelling. Even though the story is unique the themes are universal and the audience, especially people with some immigrant background, can easily relate to some if not all the characters. (PT)