Interview: Yoni Brook, Co-Director of Bronx Princess
YB: I think it’s a really interesting question. Our movie is classified as a documentary, and there’s a difference between reality TV - which is really popular now - and documentaries, both of which are shown on PBS. A documentary like the kind that we made is not scripted in any way. We asked the family to let us follow them around, and we tried to influence the situation as little as possible. We tried not to tell them where to stand, we tried not to say much at all actually. Of course we talk to them, at other times we shared our feelings, had fun with them, but while we were filming and recording we tried to disappear. Everything they said, or everything that happened in the movie, actually happened in real life. None of it was sort of staged or coached by us in any direct way.
YB: I would say the biggest challenge was living in the palace with the chief. It wasn’t a very free place, so it was hard to live with that and also film them at the same time. That was a challenge. We had to really learn pretty first about the culture; like the way you speak to the chief. We were of course very respectful, but sometimes I would do things by accident like cross my legs while I was speaking to him, and that was really offensive and I had no idea. I made a lot of stupid mistakes. But by the end of this, the chief and us got along very well. You know, it’s a learning curve to any new culture and we had never been to West Africa before so that was tricky.
YB: Because we shot over 100 hours of film and only used 38 minutes for the actual film, there were 100 different movies that could have been made out of this material. The principle we used to edit the footage – the editing took longer than the shooting – was to try and tell the story from Rocky’s perspective; what it’s like to be a teenager who’s going to school. Also, to take into account the journey that her parents were going through. Rocky was really focused on “hey I wanna get out of here, I wanna be independent.” But her father, the chief really wanted to teach her the lessons about the traditions of Ghana; of being a member of their community. So while we were editing, we tried to balance all those different ideas.
You can watch Bronx Princess online until November 24 on the PBS Website.
Photos from http://www.bronxprincess.com/