A Movie That Harnesses a Teen's Energy `Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.' Provides a Rough and Raw Look at Inner-City Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

Article excerpt

THERE are two items of special interest in the credits of "Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.," the new movie written, directed, and coproduced by Leslie Harris.

One is the presence of Ms. Harris as the triple-threat filmmaker of the project. Not only is she a newcomer to the feature-film world, but she is one of the extremely rare African-American women who have managed to crack the white-male establishment in American film.

Also noteworthy in the credits is the acknowledgement of a substantial number of not-for-profit organizations that helped Harris complete her movie and bring it to commercial distribution. These range from the American Film Institute and the National Endowment for the Arts to the Jerome Foundation and the BACA/Brooklyn Arts Council, among others.

The system of big-business entrepreneurship that governs Hollywood has few provisions for the extra support needed by independent-minded mavericks like Harris. The groups that kicked in for this project deserve thanks not only from the filmmakers, but from everyone who cares about a diversified American movie landscape.

This doesn't mean the picture is a perfect achievement. Like most of its characters, it's rough and sometimes raw to visit with, blending sharp insights into the world of inner-city youth with a weakness for melodrama and touches of silly humor. But to see it is to visit a world rarely touched by mainstream movies.

The heroine of "Just Another Girl on the I.R.T." is Chantel, a teenager who doesn't want to be just another kid on the inner-city path to nowhere. She's proud of her intelligence, earns the highest grades in her calculus class - although this would be more credible if we saw her doing homework - and can't wait to attend medical school and become a doctor.

But her ambitions run into problems, and while many are caused or heightened by the hardships of her environment, others are brought on by nobody but herself. She has an "attitude," as she and her friends would say, that leads her to disrespectful behavior and rude outbursts in school. …

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