(director/writer: Anna Rose Holmer; screenwriter: story by Saela Davis, Lisa Kjerulff & Anna Rose Holmer/; cinematographer: Paul Yee; editor: Saela Davis; music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans; cast: Royalty Hightower (Toni), Alexis Neblett (Beezy), Da’Sean Minor (Jermaine), Lauren Gibson (Maia), Makyla Burnam (Legs), Inayah Rodgers (Karisma), Antonio A.B. Grant Jr. (Donté); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Anna Rose Holmer, Lisa Kjerulff; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2015-France-in English)

“A fitting psychological portrait of growing up in Cincinnati’s West End.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first feature film by Anna Rose Holmer is a fitting psychological portrait of growing up in Cincinnati’s West End of a spunky adolescent African-American tomboy, Toni (Royalty Hightower), who trains in a community center (Lincoln Center) to be a boxer. The quiet 11-year-old works out daily with her protective amateur boxer older brother, Jermaine (Da’Sean Minor), in the recreation center. The other members of the rec center are a group of older girls who belong to the honored dance drill troupe The Lionesses. After watching them rehearse Toni joins the dance group. She forms a tight relationship with the energetic Beezy (Alexis Neblett), someone her age, and starts to find her own way in the world as she begins to rely less on her brother. The girls want to achieve greatness as a unit and practice hard every day. A few girls have seizures, but no medical causes are found. This leaves the girls fearful of the unknown as they continue with their rehearsals and belief in the future. The modest allegory of a sweet adolescent adroitly dealing with a competitive teen world and a possibly diseased outside world proves to be a well-documented abstract portrait of growing up as an outsider and wanting recognition for her skills. An electrifying performance by Royalty Hightower keeps the atmospheric minimalist film grounded in the black culture and black aspirations. The small film aims small and hits all its marks.