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Focusing on the bonding between three female (an African American female, a half African American half Latino American female, and a Latino American female) high school members of Brooklyn's "Jackie Robinson Steppers Marching Band" and the choices the girls face once their school closes down because of the need for asbestos removal. This film is about a host of topics, not least of which is the hard-work involved in maintaining friendships.Written by
`Our Song' gives us the lives of the three teenagers Lanisha, Maria and Joycelyn - best girlfriends hanging at the end of summer. Adolescent summer - even if we don't know the signals and landmarks of this particular terrain, Crown Heights, Brooklyn - is/was the same for us all. A lazy respite from the pressures and tumult of school. Welcome heat and idleness.
But if this experience of adolescence is universal, the inner city of the 90s is a different place than most of us know - maybe as foreign a country as any. Young bodies carving new silhouettes...beckoning new territory...the maze towards adulthood. The young mind coming into itself, speaking for itself, saying this is who I am, this is who I want to try to be. It is/was always thus. But this is how it plays out in Brooklyn in the late 90s.
Jim McKay is the writer/director of this film project but he acknowledges all who have shouted suggestions at him. The opening title slide `A film by' seems to list everyone in the universe. It's a gesture but by the end of the film, we know it to be a genuine one. [The closing titles also have some of the most on-the-money and appreciative credits I've read.] The vivid sound recording by Jan McLaughlin deserves to be especially noted. McKay's a modest leader who knows who is telling this story - it's his three graces Lanisha, Maria and Joycelyn. They're the real thing, their interactions have the fire of real friendship and the focus of reality. This ain't no music video shorthand telling of teenage life. It has the seriousness of the long unblinking stare.
Hanging out with them, we don't quite feel included but we do feel privileged to be listening in. These are real voices speaking with plainness about the crises and dullness of daily life. We are witness to the modern math of teenage life - how its problems are interpreted, calculated and summed and solved. Small scenes illustrate large thoughts throughout. Lanisha hangs with her dad at his security job - it's the only way she gets to spend time with him. We see the love that exists between them but also the failures of family and fatherhood. In a connected scene, Lanisha defends her dad to her mom, and we see how desperately she needs to love them both and for them to love her in return. Later, the three friends lay in the dark sharing visions and dreams - and we remember how crazy/funny kids are and more tragically, how realism hammers idealism these days. And at the end, Maria simply walking down the street is a short story in itself. We see her gather up the courage to hold all her fears and doubts at bay. She demonstrates for us the strength one needs to have to be able to embrace the fragility that makes life livable.
`Our Song's greatest gift is that we really feel deeply the terribly ephemeral nature of friendship - how, one day, alive and enlivening, that intimacy can, in the next, just turn and drift away. It's awful, but that's just the way it is, isn't it?
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