An engaging documentary, "P-Star Rising" approaches the child-star phenomenon from a bit of a different angle.
Young Priscilla Diaz is 13 years old, and a seemingly normal little girl by all accounts. But her singular talent for rapping has made her something of a sensation in her poor Harlem neighborhood, and her dad Jesse shepherds her around to various night clubs where she thrills crowds with her rhymes.
Jesse raises her and her sister solo, while their mother, who they term as a crackhead, basically stays out of the picture.
Soon Priscilla is signing a record deal with a local producer (who boasts he's working with artists like Jay-Z), and the family leaves the temporary housing that had become permanent and start shopping at jewelry stores and Hummer dealerships.
Noble creates a gritty New York landscape, showing a poor family living in the shadow of one of the richest cities in the world, hoping to find their way to those looming steel structures.
The film, either by design or otherwise, raises several questions: whose dreams are Priscilla living? She seems well-adjusted, and her father seems genuinely concerned for her well-being, but still he asks her to do many things that normal girls wouldn't be able to handle, and he lives rather opulently off of the money she makes.
Jesse was in the music industry in the 1980s and is a bit of an old-school rap afficionado. He objects when her manager and producers want to turn Priscilla from a more street-style rapper to a more sanitized "bubble gum" brand ala Hannah Montana.
At the same time, though, he never seems like he's taking advantage of her. At one point he breaks from a manager who he feels does not have their best interests at heart. But again, it's whether it's the family's interests, or Priscilla's, as Jesse makes the comment "I can't let anyone get that close to her again."
It's to director Gabriel Noble's credit that he doesn't work to portray anyone as heroes or villains in the story. Many notable documentaries in recent years have, through the magic of editing and storytelling, created notable heroes and villains, and Noble here resists that temptation.
Instead, he focuses on the Diaz family and their journey that they hope leads to stardom and riches, and in many ways how in America some people still have some control of their own destinies.
Rating: 4 Yaps