You hear a lot of rap stars talk about their musical aspirations, particularly as slotted in competition against other artists, as being part of “the game.” (Hell, one rapper even named himself after it.) Director Gabriel Noble’s festival-minted documentary P-Star Rising illuminates that concept — of music as less specifically and solely the outlet for artistic expression, and more an occupational lifeline that happens to take place in a cutthroat, often manifestly unfair environment.
Spanning four years, the movie examines the intriguing and unusual tale of single dad Jesse Diaz and his nine-year-old girl, Priscilla, an aspirant rapper. She’s not some out-of-left-field prodigy, however; in the early 1980s, Diaz was a rising hip-hop star, and so he’s impressed upon his daughter a participatory love for the musical genre. Noble’s film follows this father-daughter duo through various ups and downs both in the music industry and out — late nights in the studio, performances around the world, music label
negotiations, home schooling, and financial shakiness — as Priscilla attempts to land a record deal and become a superstar.
P-Star Rising is engaging in large part because of the gulf in self-awareness between its adult and adolescent characters (Priscilla talks with disarming, what-are-you-gonna-do? frankness about her absentee crackhead mother), and how those eventually cross, or meet up. Diaz is one those curly-haired guys who wear lots of sports hats and jerseys, and ridiculous jewelry on thick gold chains (Jeffrey Wells might call him a Hispanic party elephant), and he doesn’t really seem to have an appreciable grasp on the damage it can do to a kid to try to make them your primary breadwinner (see: Lindsay Lohan). Five years older than Priscilla, daughter Solsky is an intermediate voice of reason and support.
Diaz and his daughters go through a lot, from living in a shelter to getting their own little place and grappling with the difficulty of paying bills. While she has some talent, it’s interesting to see how Priscilla negotiates the mountain pass between wanting to both please and help provide for her father and, eventually, figure out (at least a little bit) if this is something in which she’s sincerely interested in of her own accord. Whatever one makes of her dreams, and whether or not air quotes should be applied there, young Priscilla, who has found a home on PBS’ The Electric Company while she continues working her music career, at least engagingly makes the point that it’s neither all nature or all nurture when it comes to charting one’s future.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, P-Star Rising comes to DVD presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with an English language stereo audio track. Bonus features consist of a music video (titled “Daddy’s Lil’ Girl,” don’tcha know), in addition to another 15 minutes of excised scenes, comprised almost wholly of early studio footage of young Priscilla. To purchase the DVD, phone (800) PLAY-PBS, or click here; if Amazon is totally and irretrievably your thing, meanwhile, click here. C+ (Movie) B- (Disc)