by Bob Doran
If you were paying close attention a couple of years ago, you might have heard a little bit about a hip hop documentary under production focusing in part on Fortuna-based rapper Franco Casasanta from The Dirty Rats. Director Sabrina Lee once lived here, but has since relocated to Montana. Her crew shot scenes locally including a Dirty Rats show at what was once Club West (now transformed into Aunty Mo's). Another portion of the doc was shot in Montana where a couple of other rural rappers were profiled.
The end product is now complete. Lee's 70-minute documentary, Where You From, debuted over the weekend at the Florida Film Festival. Check out the trailer at whereyoufromthefilm.com. Here's the word on the premiere:
Filmmaker Premieres Documentary About Rural Hip-hop in her Home State
Bozeman, MT. March 2, 2009 - It may be slightly ironic that Sabrina Lee grew up in Central Florida, moved to the West to find her passion, and now will see that "passion" premiering at the Florida Film Festival this spring. "Where You From," a documentary film, tells the story of three aspiring hip-hop musicians who live in rural America-- unlikely spawning grounds for hip-hop music. Yet for Lee, whose family spent years in Ocala raising horses and dogs, the rural countryside is a place where unlikely dreams are born.
The Florida Film Festival, which draws more than 25,000 people and will be held in Orlando, March 27 to April 5, is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is widely recognized as identifying emerging filmmaking talent. First-time producer and director, Lee, is proud to be showcasing "Where You From" at the FFF."When I began this journey, I was not sure where we would arrive but wanted to tell the story regardless," Lee said. "Now, I am so excited to be sharing it with a large audience at such a well-respected festival,"says Lee. "Where You From" was also accepted into the 2009 Atlanta Film Festival. This year's documentary competition line-up in Atlanta includes a number of award-winning films from prestigious festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca.
The movie was inspired back in 2005, when Lee saw a hand-painted sign that said "Hip-Hop Show" in a cow pasture in rural Humboldt County, Calif. Lee attended the show held in a local breakfast café, and was overwhelmed by the talent as well as the engaged audience. Three years in the making, the feature-length documentary follows a beat far from the urban streets. With dense redwood forests, Rocky Mountain vistas, and the dramatic rhythms of hip-hop as a backdrop, the movie tells the stories of young men confronting small-town life, broken families, and drug addiction-- ultimately seeking triumph in their music.
Lee believes a common misperception is that hip-hop is purely a reflection of commercial rap culture, but the artists in Humboldt defied that logic. Lee says, "For the individuals portrayed in the film, hip-hop is not at all about the image, but rather the poetry," Lee said. "They are telling honest stories about their lives and their experiences, and at the same time making intense music."