Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, July 10:
Full Frame 2017
Provincetown, Maryland, Black Harvest, Milwaukee, Spokane
An in-depth exploration of a performer and her acclaimed one-woman show.
Okwui Okpokwasili’s one-woman show, also titled “Bronx Gothic,” revolves around an apparently autobiographical series of written exchanges between a young Okpokwasili and a more experienced friend. The writer/artist developed the performance as a way to explore the experiences of growing up as a black female, and, on a larger scale, to combat society’s efforts to keep females ignorant about or ashamed of their own bodies. As demonstrated in Rossi’s portrait, the piece is intentionally, unabashedly confrontational, meant to force the audience to encounter Okpokwasili on her own terms, whether that’s in uncomfortably watching her dance in a frenzy in the extended opening, listening to her read a graphic exchange about teenage girls’ burgeoning sexuality, or enduring a litany of race- and body-shaming obscenities to which those two characters are subjected. Following her over the three months during which the piece was toured around the country, Rossi weaves together clips from the show with revealing talkbacks between the artist and audience members; more guarded moments with her young daughter and husband, the play’s director; and, most refreshingly, interviews with Okpokwasili’s more grounded, less heady Nigerian parents, among others. As with pretty much any one-person show, Okpokwasili’s is to some degree self-indulgent, and the film could have been more judicious about tempering the somewhat repetitive exegesis of the piece with more biographical elements that could have served as a counterpoint to the extremes of the content of the performance. Still, the revelatory and raw power in Okpokwasili’s work comes through clearly.