Straight Out of Brooklyn
1991 Directed by Matty Rich. Starring George T. Odom, Ann D. Sanders, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Mark Malone, Reana E. Drummond, Barbara Sanon.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 28, 1991
First, there's the movie called Straight Out of Brooklyn. It's a stark, tough, unblinking look at young black men growing up without options in the housing projects of Brooklyn's Red Hook, an area also epitomized as the Last Exit to Brooklyn. But there's also the story of the making of the movie Straight Out of Brooklyn. Nineteen year old writer, producer and director Matty Rich's behind the scenes story of vision and persistence is as good as any piece of fiction. The film was begun two years ago after Rich had completed a summer semester of flmmaking coursework at NYU. He withdrew after that one semester feeling the program to be too elitist and attitudinally racist. But that semester combined with an adolescence spent reading how-to books about filmmaking readied Rich for the project ahead. His early childhood was lived in the housing projects depicted in Straight Out of Brooklyn and the stories brought to the screen were inspired by the lives of real people Rich knew. Then he went out and told some fibs about his investment capital, rounded up some actors, borrowed against the limit on his credit card, bought enough film stock to shoot about 15 minutes of the movie and ran out of money to pay the lab costs and retrieve the developed footage. The lab was persuaded to release one reel of film from which a trailer could be made with the goal of enticing more investment money. A production office was set up in an extra room in the day care center Rich's mother runs, and after a pitch on a radio station Rich lured enough viewers to a screening of the trailer -- their belief in the project was matched by $40,000 in investment money collected on the spot. This is only a fraction of the saga of how this movie came to be, not to mention the ways in which it dovetails into the currently hot topics of black filmmakers and independent black enterprise or the special award it won at this year's prestigious Sundance Film Festival. People look at Straight Out of Brooklyn and say “Really good film, especially for a 19 year-old.” And that's absolutely true. But that qualifier deflates the “really good film” part of the statement. The movie tells a truly involving story about one particular family. The father blames white society for his low-paying job and inability to support his family and takes out his frustration on his understanding wife whom he physically abuses. The son schemes with his friends to pull off one dangerous get rich quick robbery that will be their ticket straight out of Brooklyn. The consequences are tragic. The movie's strengths are its scenes of honest conversations and raw emotions that give it an authentic power. It's found a voice that will carry straight out of Brooklyn.