Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: P-Star Rising

The Documentary Blog’s Sheffield Doc/Fest coverage comes to us thanks to our new UK correspondent Charlotte Cook.

On paper P-Star Rising raises certain expectations. It is a story about a 9 year old rapper and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a standard performance driven music documentary. What actually happens is that all your expectations are turned on their head and you are presented with one of the most intimate insights into poor, struggling America seen on screen.

Director Gabriel Noble shows the highs and lows of success through the innocent eyes of Priscilla “P-Star” Diaz. She’s supported and led by her father Jesse, who for the last four years has desperately tried to find a way to make a success of his daughter’s talent while also raising Priscilla and her sister alone in their cramped one bedroom apartment. The element of risk and potential for failure give the film added suspense, as you can’t help but root for this family to succeed. Any initial judgments that this is a child being exploited are quickly squashed as P-Star’s character progressively bursts through. Even though the pressure of the family’s future evidently weighs firmly on her shoulders, she is truly happy face first in the spot light.

As Father and daughter attempt to navigate their way through the music industry, they also work to maintain their relationship. Their positioning within both worlds constantly changes as Priscilla struggles with attempts to control her own career while also remaining her Daddy’s little girl. Meanwhile, Jesse finds it hard allowing other people to have control over the choices made for his daughter while bringing her up in the best way he can. Parallel to this is the subtle presence of the two girl’s issues with their crack-addicted mother with whom Priscilla’s sister is desperate to find. The family are often forced to swap conventional roles and are constantly making sacrifices for each other. Add into the mix P-Star’s unbelievable talent and infectious personality and you’re left with a very complex but entirely entertaining underdog story.