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Film / Filly Brown

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Filly Brown is a 2012 film directed by Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos. It focuses on an up-and-coming hip-hop artist of Hispanic heritage who struggles to find a shot at stardom while dealing with her working-class Los Angeles life, her mother sitting in prison. Performers featured in the movie include Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jenni Rivera, and Gina Rodriguez.note 

The somewhat obscure movie sadly provides a case of Overshadowed by Controversy. First, its distribution was handled by a firm called the Indomina Group that ran into financial trouble and got the film passed on to Pantelion after the former company folded. Second, six months after the limited release of Filly Brown both its producers and its distributors got hit with a pair of lawsuits (alleging that production ignored basic contract rules). One of the suits asserted that the filmmakers never even forged a formal acting agreement with a principal cast-member. Third, actress and singer Jenni Rivera tragically died in a plane crash before the movie's major release.

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While the film received mixed reviews, Gina Rodriguez's role as the title character picked-up significant praise, and she wound up winning the Imagen Award for Best Actress.

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Tropes present in this film:

  • Living Is More Than Surviving: One of the central aesops of the film is about trying to reach beyond your circumstances and accomplish what you dream of.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Brown has to deal with small-time jerks messing up her attempt to live her dreams.
  • Missing Mom: A form of this is a major driver of the film. The protagonist's mother is a repentant criminal spending time behind bars who wishes that she could've provided a much better life for her family than she actually did.
  • Reality Subtext: Actress and singer Gina Rodriguez grew up in Chicago immersed in hip-hop culture, interacting with local rappers and eventually trying song-writing when she moved to New York, New York for college. Not too long afterward, the creators of the movie cast her as the titular character of Filly Brown.
  • Spicy Latina: The trope is played with. Brown is highly attractive young woman with a fiery inner strength about her, but her brash determination is justified by her situation and portrayed sympathetically. She's also not portrayed as a sex object from the viewpoint of the audience; the other characters in the film that think of her as such get portrayed as jerks. The focus is on her lyric-writing skills and vocal talents.
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    • "When I got the script and finished reading it, I knew it was for me. She was strong and fierce with a chip on her shoulder. She was this beast of a woman," Rodriguez later remarked.
  • Stage Names: Brown's legal name is Maria Jose Tonorio. As in real-life, picking a more Awesome Mc Coolname moniker is routine for hip-hop artists.
    • Case in point: the music producers on the film, assisting Rodriguez with her performing, go by the names Silent Giant, E-Dub, and Koolaid. Rodriguez later remarked, "They gave me a safe haven."
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: Oh, boy, this one has it in spades.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Brown comes from a working-class Hispanic family living in Los Angeles.
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