Directors: Sean Baker (Take Out)
Screenplay: Sean Baker, Darren Dean
Producer: Darren Dean
Starring: Prince Adu, Karren Karagulian, Aiden Noesi, Keyali Mayaga, Kat Sanchez
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 100 min.
Sean Baker first landed on my radar two years ago when I had the opportunity to speak to the director regarding his break out film Take Out (review). I was thrilled to find out that Baker was ready to release a second film, another New York story this time about a young hustler. Enter Prince of Broadway.
Lucky is just that: a street hustler. An illegal immigrant from Ghana, he cruises up and down Broadway, sweet talking the ladies and his boys into following him into the back of a nearby store (owned and managed by Lucky’s boss Levon) where they can purchase high quality knock-offs for a fraction of the price of the real thing. It’s a meagre living but Lucky makes enough to dress well, eat and put a roof over his head. He has a girl friend who encourages him to better himself by going to school and overall, he seems to be living a happy life. All of that changes the day Linda, a girl he had a fling with, shows up and thrusts an infant into his arms, explaining that he’s Lucky’s and that he should be a father and take care of the child for two weeks. Lucky doesn’t think the baby (nameless for most of the film) is his (“He’s white! I’m black!”) but unable to call the police and unwilling to abandon the child, he reluctantly tries to make it work.
This is, at its core, the story of Lucky but Prince of Broadway cuts in other lives. We see Linda as she deals with the abandonment of her child to a man who may not even be the father and we also get a glimpse at Levon, an Armenian immigrant whose marriage is falling apart. At the hands of a less talented filmmaker, one might wonder why we’d care about these people when we’re here to see Lucky’s story but Baker interweaves these stories seamlessly into his tale and in fact, they do matter quite a bit as they all play large roles in Lucky’s life and shaping his future.
Based on the life of Prince Adu who plays Lucky and is a real life hustler, this story seethes authenticity. From the older ladies who give Lucky a chance to his fellow hustlers, there’s feeling that these are real people living through these very real situations. Yes, there’s drama but the appeal of Baker’s films is the reality of that drama. There’s no need for over blowing situations because real life provides more than enough fodder for real drama, disappointment and joy. His films may be works of fiction but they’re a fiction that act as a document of a time, place and person; documents of a way of life.
It’s a good thing Baker has found an audience because it would be a shame for his talent to be overlooked, forgotten and then discovered in 20 years. His stories are authentic, beautifully touching tales of people, mostly immigrants, carving out a life for themselves in the vastness of New York. They’re stories that need to be told and that Baker beautifully wraps in cinéma vérité that is engaging from the start. As long as Baker keeps making films, I’ll keep watching and spreading the word. His films are not to be missed and Prince of Broadway is no exception.
Prince of Broadway opens today in NY, September 24th in LA and October 1st in Chicago. More details at the film’s website
Click “play” to see the trailer:
Flixster Profile for Prince of Broadway