Logline: Set in 1980s Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY, and Cataño, Puerto Rico--A spunky, hip-hop-loving Puerto Rican girl grows resilient through the heartbreaking realities of her musician father and the crime-ridden neighborhood she calls home.
GENRE : YA Family Drama
Principal Photography/Filming: Completed 12/20/2023
Currently in Post Production
Editing is in progress (began January 2024)
Anticipated date to Picture Lock: 4/1/24
Color Correction/Sound: Anticipated Start date 4/15/24
Take a trip back to the vibrant 1980s in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and Cataño, Puerto Rico, where a spunky Puerto Rican girl finds solace in hip-hop amid the harsh realities of her musician father's struggles and the oppressive crime-ridden neighborhood she calls home. Experience her resilience as she rises above the challenges that threaten to break her spirit and witness the power of music, and love to heal all wounds. Come along for a journey of grit, determination, and heart in this inspiring tale of a young girl's triumph over adversity.
Elaine is an eight-year-old girl who lives in the welfare projects of New York's crime capital. Despite her challenging living conditions, she sees life as perfect. Her family includes her mother, Carmen; her father, Manny, a gifted singer/songwriter; and her three older siblings. Her intellectually disabled Aunt, Elizabeth, is also a big part of her life and Elaine's best friend. As a severe asthmatic, Elizabeth often uses a wheelchair to move faster through their densely populated neighborhood.
Elaine's family is one of the few Latino households in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Brownsville. Their apartment is a haven of love, family, and music. The smell of her mother's delicious arroz con pollo fills the air while her father's lively salsa beats bring joy to the room. However, when the police conduct a late-night search of their home, they discover that Manny has a hidden drug problem. As a result, Manny leaves his family and returns to his hometown of Cataño, Puerto Rico, leaving Elaine and her family behind.
As Elaine enters her teenage years, she struggles with her childhood memories of discovering her father's addiction and the estrangement from her father since.
She avoids the subject of her father and refuses to talk to him. Elaine resents the rules meant to keep her safe that mandate she stays indoors, begrudgingly babysitting her Aunt Elizabeth. She longingly watches the world go by from her strict maternal grandmother's apartment window while her mother pursues her High School Equivalency Diploma.
Like most teenagers, Elaine longs for a sense of belonging and independence. With her Aunt Elizabeth in tow, Elaine sneaks out to participate in a neighborhood cipher (rap battle). But everyday teenage rebellious actions have dangerous consequences in neighborhoods like Brownsville.
During Elaine's rap, chaos caused by a shootout and cop chase ensues. Elaine unintentionally comes to the aid of a neighborhood drug dealer, Goji.
Later, grateful for her help, Goji pays Elaine a hundred dollars and offers her a job to earn more. Elaine takes the money but rejects the position.
Later, while caring for her disabled Aunt Elizabeth again, and with the freedom to afford pizza, Elaine and Elizabeth venture out again.
At the pizzeria, Elaine is confronted by neighborhood bullies who feel she has received preferential treatment (having been allowed to use the "out of order" bathroom) from the pizzeria owner because of her skin color.
They rob Elaine of Elizabeth's wheelchair and leave Elaine with a black eye.
Elaine and Elizabeth are returned home by cops.
Angry, Elaine's maternal grandmother bars her from further contact with Elizabeth.
Fearing the road ahead, her mother (Carmen) sends Elaine to Puerto Rico for the summer, where she must be with her father.
In Puerto Rico, Elaine is forced to confront her unresolved pain. Her father, Manny, has since been rehabilitated and sings at the community Pentecostal church. Despite this, Elaine struggles to trust him again.
Through their unbreakable bond, her father's original music, and embracing the Puerto Rican culture she never felt connected to, Elaine discovers the transformative power of acceptance and learns to trust again.
Happy in Puerto Rico, Elaine expresses her desire to remain with her father but is soon rejected. Before leaving Puerto Rico, she finds a secret stash of pills, which she determines is her father's new addiction and the reason she is not allowed to stay.
With new feelings of disappointment, Elaine is soon thrust back to her crime-ridden Brooklyn neighborhood.
After her mother finds her hundred-dollar bill, an argument ensues. Elaine calls her mother stupid for believing in her father's sobriety. Elaine's harsh accusations and disrespect are met with a smack.
Elaine runs out, determined to make her way by any means necessary. Elaine seeks out the drug dealer who had offered her a job.
But Elaine soon learns that easy money is never straightforward, and her traumatic childhood memories come back to serve her. Because of them, Elaine can better recognize the unlawful activities that may doom her to repeat the mistakes of her father's past.
Elaine returns home apologetically to her mother. Her mother, Carmen, forgivingly tells Elaine that she can't make good decisions without knowing all the facts surrounding her parent's decisions.
Elaine's mother enlightens Elaine as to why her father would not allow her to stay in Puerto Rico and why her parents, who are still very much in love, have decided to remain apart--Elaine's father had contracted HIV during his struggles with addiction. He will soon die of AIDS.
Heartbroken, Elaine shares a phone call with her father, in which her father quantifies his short life as one of great value. Elaine learns to value her experiences, finds her resilience, and understands what quantifies a meaningful life.
“From Girlhood Trials to Onstage Triumph.”
The New York Times