Rooftop Films Presents a Free Screening of Up with Me in the Bronx

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Sun, 02/27/2011 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

On Thursday March 3rd Rooftop Films is back at the Bronx’s Bruckner Bar and Grill with Greg Takoudes' gripping drama Up with Me. This gritty charming and dynamic narrative feature was created as a collaboration between director Greg Takoudes' and at-risk youth at the East Harlem Tutorial Program. The screenplay is based on months-long writing workshops with the teenagers who then starred in the movie and—when they weren't acting in scenes—helped crew the set. “I wanted to turn these teens into filmmakers ” Takoudes said in IndieWire “to teach them film skills and make our movie in a way that the creative responsibility for the film rested as much with the teens as with me. I thought that if they understood this responsibility that they would rise to the occasion. And they did.” The story they created tells of a Harlem teenager whose love and loyalty are put to the test when he is offered a prep school scholarship upstate. “In school they taught us about great civilizations. But one day they’ll count Harlem as one of them and they’ll count us. No billionaire wants so much as us. . . . No one ever loved like I love Francisco. There were no better friends than ours.” When Francisco receives the scholarship he is torn between his life at home—his loyal girlfriend and his jealous best friend—and the new opportunities offered by his new environment. Francisco wants the education but doesn’t want to change. In a brilliant act of narrative restraint the filmmakers barely show Francisco at the new school for most of the movie leaving the audience wondering (like his friends) what the upstate academy is actually like for him. In tough and disadvantaged neighborhoods people always face a dilemma choosing between local pride and worldly desire between staying loyal and seeking a better life. Up with Me has both Francisco and the audience asking how do you improve yourself (or even define “improvement”) in ways that don’t alienate your friends your loved ones your community?