Story Ave SXSW Review

March 12, 202380/1006 min
Starring
Asante Blackk, Luis Guzmán, Melvin Gregg
Written by
Aristotle Torres and Bonsu Thompson
Directed by
Aristotle Torres
Run Time
1h 34min
Release Date
Overall Score
Rating Summary

           Most of the time when you watch a film, you are aware that the people you see on screen are characters. What I mean is, they are people you only see on the screen and you know that you just don’t meet people like that in real life. That though is not the case in Aristotle Torres’s feature debut, Story Ave, as it is filled with people you have met in your daily lives. It is because of this, that you connect more with the story and you truly care about what is happening to each and every one of them.

 In a city with millions of stories, we meet Kadir (Asante Blackk) a gifted artist who has chosen street graffiti as a way to express himself. Kadir is going through it right now, after his younger brother dies in an accident  he feels responsible for. His brother was special needs and because of that he was tethered to him, but now because of the accident he starts to spend more time on the streets. It is there he spends time with his best friend Maurice (Alex R. Hibbert) and his older brother Skemes (Melvin Gregg), who he looks up to. The three of them run with a graffiti crew called OTL (Outside the Lines) and Kadir shows to have a gift, both in what he creates on walls and in the sketchbook he carries around with him. Kadir is toeing the line of staying a good kid, to making bad decisions where things can go bad. Skemes wants Kadir to prove his loyalty to OTL and tells him he has to stick someone up and bring back what he gets as proof. He picks a MTA worker named Luis (Luis Guzmán), a choice that is about to change both of their lives forever.

Story Ave begin its life as a short by Torres and co-writer Bonsu Thompson, that others saw there was more story to be told. At its heart, Story Ave is a coming of age film, but Torres has a grander vision and wants to raise the story above those traditional films. That vision is to have us take a hard turn from what looks like a “good kid , turns bad” story line, with the introduction of Luis to the story. Torres implores the usual tropes used in the urban youth genre (domestic troubles, gun, drugs and gang violence) but there is a clear view here, one that relies on style and only falls into clichés on occasion.

Story Ave is one of those films that just stays with you, not just for the story it is telling, but also because you know that there are people involved who will be doing bigger things.  Torres for one gives you early Spike Lee vibes and even pays homage to him with a dolly shot. That though is not the only reason for the comparison, it is also because, like Lee, Torres is telling a pure New York Story. It’s brought to life by Blackk  as he gives such a miraculous performance as he brings Kadir’s pain to the screen through his recklessness and hopelessness. Story Ave is honest about the City’s inhabitants that is told with compassion that often has a magical feel to it. It’s also a story of people we have all known, that makes it one you won’t soon forget.

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