In Sweetness O’Hara (Zoë Kravitz) and her older sister Ola’s (Antonique Smith) racially divided New York neighborhood, it’s common to encounter street crime and drug-related violence. As the two grow older living among the two worlds of their own chaotic family life and the stereotypical confines of an unforgiving urban high school, they start to grow apart: Ola, pregnant, ends up dropping out of high school to move out with her boyfriend, leaving her younger sister alone with her emotionally sedated mother (Yolanda Ross) and in-and-out alcoholic father (Jason Clarke). Oh yeah, we could have sworn at first this was a Precious sequel of some sort (you know, based on the novel Push by Saphire) when we saw an early appearance of Gabourey Sidibe (Latonya) as one of the hood bullies, but we realized it was nearly impossible to not picture Lee Daniels’ 2009 when seeing Sidibe perform.
Trying to figure it all out on her own after the unexpected move of her sister, Sweetness undergoes an identity crisis without the guidance of her sister’s experience, leading into her turning to “the streets,” so to speak. She gets into the drug game by begging her dealer Roland (Tariq Trotter) to front her, resulting in some mischievous situations and misfortunes. When her sister returns home after having her baby there is still the reality of their parents’ neglect and abuse, making it hard for Sweetness to backtrack to her old ways.
Victoria Mahoney’s film is a contemporary culture clash of teenagers living in the inner-city whose hate is an underlying discrimination of others’ roots and race. In Yelling to the Sky (2011), everyone’s backstory makes for their character flaws, and in most cases, a lot of those stories are filled with voids of uncertainty.
An official selection of the most recent South by Southwest Film Festival and currently screening at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Yelling to the Sky has appeared all over the world, including The GIffoni International Film Festival in Italy and the Mumbai Int’l Film Festival in India. Mahoney captures the rawness of New York City through Sweetness’ story as she finds her place amongst oppression and alienation.