BERLIN (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe, who stars in a new street drama tackling violence, mental illness, and drugs, told the Berlin film festival on Saturday that Hollywood should better reflect the real world.
“Yelling to the Sky” is actress-turned-director Victoria Mahoney’s debut feature. She also wrote and produced it.
The movie, which also features musician Lenny Kravitz’s daughter Zoe in the lead role of 17-year-old Sweetness O’Hara, is in the main competition line-up in Berlin.
“Yelling to the Sky” has drawn comparisons to “Precious”, the 2009 picture for which Sidibe was shortlisted for an Academy Award. Both are no-frills treatments of a young woman’s struggle to emerge from domestic abuse and poverty.
The muted reaction among journalists and critics at a press screening in Berlin, however, suggested it may not enjoy the same critical acclaim.
“I think the similarity between this film and ‘Precious’ is that it’s not a perfect, pretty story, which is what we get most of the time out of Hollywood,” Sidibe told reporters.
“It’s gritty and honest and it’s not trying to make you like it. It’s really a slice of life and it’s this one girl’s life and her struggle and her fight to really become a person and to define who she is.
“I think there needs to be more stories like that because my life has never looked like anything that Hollywood has produced.”
Berlin has a reputation for showcasing hard-hitting, low-budget movies, and “Yelling to the Sky” fits the bill neatly.
Sweetness is the daughter of a mixed-race couple in a rundown U.S. neighborhood. She is beaten on the street by notorious bully Latonya (Sidibe). Her mother, who is mentally ill, flees home when her husband beats her.
Older sister Ola takes Sweetness under her wing, but when she leaves, the central character is left to fend for herself.
Sweetness forms a gang, deals and takes drugs, metes out punishment of her own and gets caught up in serious crime. The she tries to turn her life around before it is too late.
“Even though she is in extreme circumstances, I think what related me to Sweetness was the emotional aspect of just growing up,” actress Kravitz said of her role.
“Even though I didn’t grow up in those kind of circumstances ... I was still lost and confused and alone and sad and angry and all of the very human emotions that I think we all feel.”
Mahoney said she did not believe the film was too negative.
“I believe that it was an honest expression of what was occurring for those people in that moment,” she said. “There are moments of joy and light and love and care.”
Mahoney expressed hope that her first movie would lead to more that featured mixed race relationships and children.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Alastair Macdonald