Sundance Film Festival

FILLY BROWN – Hustlers & flow in the story of rising rap artist

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the world’s premiere venues for independent artists. If you’ve got a film playing Sundance, that means you had something to say and you begged, borrowed, and stole in order to say it. I suspect that’s a big reason why movies about independent artists — not just filmmakers, but painters, writers, and especially musicians — have done so well over the years in Park City. If you’re at Sundance, odds are you understand that story. Hell, if you’re at Sundance, you probably are that story.

FILLY BROWN, premiering in the U.S. Dramatic competition, is another film in that great tradition. Its official synopsis describes it as “a portrait of an artist forced to discover her authentic voice.” That artist is our title character, Majo a.k.a. “Filly Brown,” a rising young hip hop MC from the streets of Los Angeles. A record producer offers her a desperately needed contract, but Filly has to decide whether financial security is worth selling her soul. Here’s the teaser trailer for the film:

You probably recognize STAND AND DELIVER co-stars Lou Diamond Phillips and Edward James Olmos (father of FILLY BROWN co-director Michael D. Olmos) in two of the key supporting roles. Phillips is no stranger to stories about young Latin musicians — LA BAMBA, anyone? — so his presence adds an instant dash of credibility and curiosity. You probably don’t recognize Gina Rodriguez, the young actress who plays Filly and performs all of her music, but she’s previously appeared on episodes of Law & Order and The Bold and the Beautiful. You almost certainly didn’t recognize Latin pop star Jenni Rivera — I sure didn’t — looking slightly less glamorous than usual as Filly’s incarcerated mother. Describing the role recently, Rivera said “I had to dig deep. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If I can make Edward James Olmos cry, to me that means it was a success.”

Michael Olmos and co-director Youssef Delara previously collaborated on the 2010 indie film BEDROOMS; you can watch their Sundance ’12 Meet the Artists interview below. They discuss Rodriguez’s background as a beat poet and her ability to sing, rap, and perform. Rodriguez’s musical chops are supposedly so strong that FILLY’s producers, music impresarios Khool Aid and E-Dub, are working to turn her into a full-time rap artist. My advice to Ms. Rodriguez: be careful out there. We all know what the system can do to young independent artists forced to discover their authentic voice.

FILLY BROWN premieres Friday, January 20th at 5:30pm at the Library Center Theatre. For a full list of festival screenings, go to Sundance.org.