FILM

Filly Brown
By Gina With on January 24, 2012

Honest, Authentic, Redemptive. This movie is incredibly moving. It’s a story about the life of a young Latina girl, Majo (Gina Rodriguez) in LA whose love for her mother drives her into the hustle of the underground music industry. Eventually a major record producer picks her up and things twist and turn from there. What is most inspiring about the film are the family dynamics. It really portrays commitment to family, despite the lies, manipulation, and imperfection of the human condition. Majo is committed to seeing her mother’s life redeemed, despite the dissuasion of her immediate family members, and the latter discovery that she was duped into financially supporting her mother’s expensive drug habit. Gina Rodriguez’s performance is gritty, strong, and powerful. She truly is the driving force of the film. We found out in the interview that followed the film that the actress went through months of training to learn the craft of rap and spoken word. You would never guess she isn’t a natural. The musical score is also helps to drive the storyline. We were blessed to have gotten some insight from the directors who explained the musical journey of the film was specifically planned to mirror what could be an authentic journey of a Latina in the music world. Majo starts out with slam poetry, turns to underground Latin rap, gets picked up and her music becomes over produced, and finally levels off with a blending of them all in finding her own voice. However, I would venture to say that the music does more than just further the plot. The music follows the hero’s journey towards authenticity, as she overcomes her fear of speaking the truth and steps into her identity as a daughter, sister, and friend. It also assists in revealing her calling to be an unabashedly truthful musical artist. While I wouldn’t call this an explicitly theological film, there is definitely a theological conversation to be had in more depth.

About the Author: Gina

5 Responses to "Filly Brown"

  1. Filly Brown had me from the opening sequence.  Quick cuts of Los Angeles over music and I was strangely won over.  It was a beautiful, raw story the likes of which I would probably never have chosen to see if I were deciding between it and the latest blockbuster at my local movie theater.  It’s the story of a Latina MC who pursues her music career with an odd mix of ambition and need to support her imprisoned mother who’s constantly pressuring her for money and help in getting out.  Filly’s story is intermixed with that of her father’s struggle against racism and prejudice at work and her sister’s battle as she grows up naïve and without a mother, acting out, but not knowing what she ultimately desires from her rebellious actions.  Filly’s life is turned upside down when she spits lyrics given to her by her mother at a web-radio station and is immediately swept away into having a partner and a promoter who may or may not be on the up and up.  Under constant pressure from her mother and desperate for money Filly makes one bad choice after another until it’s revealed that the lyrics that vaulted her into the limelight were stolen and she has to figure out how to reassemble the pieces of her shattered life by gathering back the lies she’s told and been told in an effort to heal her family’s broken heart.

  2. Filly Brown
    Filly Brown is a young Latina Hip Hop artist spitting rhymes on the underground radio scene in LA with a group of friends that support her art.  Filly’s mom is in jail, but gives Filly lyrics to spit, which garners her notice by a promoter and ultimately, a record contract with producer “Big C.”  Filly signs the deal in order to get the money to hire a lawyer for her mother’s defense.  As she gains success, she quickly loses her street vibe, artistic integrity, and the respect of many of her friends.  Ultimately, we discover that her mother gave her lyrics stolen from someone else, which leads to Big C being sued.  Filly’s mom also lied about the reasons she is in jail, a discovery that causes Filly’s world to come crashing down around her.  The revelation serves to reunite her family, however, including younger sister Lupe, who has gotten caught up in her own web of trouble with one of Big C’s employees, and her father, a construction worker with his own set of secrets that shine light on why Filly’s mom is in jail to begin with.  Ultimately, the family comes together and confesses their sins to each other, with Filly free-styling a poem of forgiveness to her mom.  We are left with a ray of hope that unity will one day be restored.

    While burdened by an overly complicated storyline, and themes that have been seen many times before, Filly Brown packed quite an emotional punch for me.  I especially appreciated the love that Filly showed for her mom, even though her mom was a strung out, lying drug addict.  The father’s resignation, fueled by his determination to live in truth was also a strong reminder of the power of integrity.  When all is revealed, the family makes the difficult choice to stick together and support each other.  The resulting reunion and display of Filly’s forgiveness for her mom is a powerful, moving example of grace and renewal, and a welcome reminder of the power of love.

  3. Of all the films I saw at Sundance 2012, Filly Brown was the most accessible to a general audience. It’s message was poignant, it’s characters were flat and understandable, and it’s storyline was clear. In addition however, it had heart, it’s music was fantastic, and we cared about the main characters. As a consequence, it seemed to be a real crowd pleaser.
    Filly Brown is about a young Latino girl (Gina Rodriguez) who has dreams of being a famous rapper and who fights through a swamp of circumstances to achieve it. Set in Los Angeles amid a community of immigrants who in some ways are treated like second class citizens, Filly Brown is much about humanizing this people group.
    The more I think about it, the less fondness I feel for it even though I really enjoyed the experience as pure entertainment. Perhaps this is pretentious of me, but I just felt like the story progressed too fast to really make sense, the characters fit into stereotypes too easily, and too many conflicts were left unresolved and unexplored. As Edward Olmos said in the interview with our Fuller course, the film is universal in how it connects with all audiences: I think these realities help it to achieve that status.
    Emotionally, my primary response was joy. It was beautiful to see the family on a pathway to hope at the end and Filly’s music was infectious. Overall I appreciated it and was entertained, but it did not connect with me on a deep level.

  4. The first light bulb that went off for me while watching Filly Brown was how important familial roles are in the dynamics of family functionality.  Due to the circumstances in the main character’s life, she was placed in the role of mother to her sister, the role of provider for her mother, and her father’s role as protector had been distorted.  How is it possible for mother and daughter to have a functional and healthy relationship when they can only communicate from either side of a Plexiglas pane in the visitation room of a prison?  From this point forward, I did not see the movie through a lens of judgment or question, “Why are they in this situation”?  Rather, I found myself asking what can get them out of this situation?  From whence comes their help – their redemption?  Christ is the truth, the way, and the life.  Where we see truth, we see Christ.  Where there is a way, that way is led by Christ.  Where life speaks, overshadowing the defeat of death, Christ reigns.  This is the hope found within Filly Brown.  When truth is told the fear that is infecting this family dissipates and gives way to healing.  There is profound hope and peace spoken throughout the film that is presented with an authenticity that speaks to the human heart.  Add to that phenomenal performances, beautiful music, and bold directing and you have a cinematic experience that made this audience member want to stand and cheer.  Over a week later, I’m still cheering.

  5. This is my favorite of the Sundance festival. It is fast paced, entertaining, musical, make you cry and good story kind of movie. I believe and hope it will be successful in the commercial rim as well. The casting of the main actress is great. Gina Rodriguez successful creates a vivid character of Majo with edgy attitude, short tempered, a great sister and daughter combined. The message of family well deserved a discussion.
    Stolen lyrics passing to Majo from her imprisoned mom completely jeopardized Majo’s very green and promising rapper’s career. I was shocked that Majo still did not give up on her mom when finding out that her mom was still on drug in prison with Majo hard earned money. It does not make sense to me in logic. But, I guess the language they are talking about here is not logic but love, more specifically, the unconditional love. From Majo’s reaction, I saw Christ figure of never letting go of me even in my worst.
    Comparing to Majo dad, he cut off with his wife and cover up his previous gang life. As he revealed his introduction of drug to his wife, he was able to quit after having Majo. But, his wife cannot. Their family was never at peace and separated by prison bars. I recognize the powerful destruction curse of sin and addiction. 
    The lawyer mention couple times applying early release for treatment requires the whole family onboard. Majo’s father was never onboard up until Majo was abducted. At the ending scene, the whole family reunited in the prison visiting room. Majo finish the unfinished part of her rap right before she got kidnapped. The lyric is super touching. It is a sharing of her struggle and hope for the family. Family is the greatest gift from God for our growth, support, shelter and love.

    by Samuel Lee on Feb 5th, 2012 at 10:52 pm
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