Every once in a while something a little off the beaten path lands on my desk and it ends up being a real gift. This week one of those little treasures appeared in the form of Wassup Rockers, a new film by writer-director Larry Clark. This little Indie flick has been well received while making the film festival rounds and is scheduled for release in April.
Wassup Rockers introduces viewers to seven Latino kids growing up in South-Central Los Angeles. These rocker pals are united in both their love for skateboarding and their immense dislike of hip hop culture. Clark takes these kids and pits them against African-American neighbors and other teens. Watching the two inner city minorities interact provides a jolting view of racial politics in todays’ world.
During an intro viewers first meet Jonathan, (Jonathan Velasquez) the mild-mannered leader amongst this Latino group. As the film progresses, Jonathan and his friends eventually find their way to Beverly Hills in order to skate the infamous “nine stairs“. En route, a social experiment of sorts seems to transpire and the boys face the harsh reality that racism and violence exist even in the suburbs. Watching the mayhem unfold as the kids backyard-hop is sheer fun. Clark has an amazing ability to capture the raw energy of teenagers and in this vehicle that vivacity jumps from the screen into the audience.
I think what sticks with me the most is the natural feel and flow of the scenes. There’s a poignant scene between Jonathan’s best friend Kico (Francisco Pedrasa) and Nikki (Jessica Steinbaum), a girl from Beverly Hills High. The two share an honest discussion about how radically different their lives and it gives viewers a good look at the uniqueness of American youth.
While watching it occured to me that Clark’s secret to really capturing the essence of today’s youth is very simple — he lets the cast be themselves in many aspects and then he uses that to the film’s advantage. The result is a delicate balance of kinetic energy, honest emotion, and pure fun.
(Wassup Rockers is a First Look Pictures release of A Henry Winterstern presentation of a Glass Key production. It is produced by Larry Clark, Kevin Turen, Henry Winterstern. Executive producers, Patrick Meehan, Sharon Stone. Co-producer, Richard Shore. Directed, written by Larry Clark. Story, Clark, Matthew Frost.)