‘Price of Life’ documentary moves crowd

Christina Pellegrini

department’s Documentary and Film Making course’s semester project revealed an independent piece documenting the successful life choices made by a black man who grew up in South Philadelphia, while remaining sensitive to the hardships and social problems he experienced during his youth.

Exposed at a young age to a violent father and drug abuse, this man was able to break free of the cycle of inner-city criminality and now uses his experience to assist others in following his lead.

This semester, the communication department has ventured an experimental course with a mission: to explore social problems through film and media studies.

Collaboration with the National Comprehensive Center for Fathers geared this film toward documenting the life of Robert “Ali” Childs, a graduate of the program whose life exemplifies a hope for inner-city criminality and upward mobility for those trapped in its degradation.

As a result, a highly professional and moving piece, “Price of Life,” exemplifies the dedication, motivation and social awareness of the students committed to the street-slumming reality of the film.

The film rises with the ascension of a man whose life was driven by drug dealing and violence into one dedicated to changing the faces on the streets of Philadelphia, providing the means to escape criminality and become a contributing member to society.

“Ali was hypnotized by street life; he glamorized it,” Muhammad Shakur, Childs’s NCCF mentor, says in the film.

The documentary remains simplistic in its scope, confining the scenes to intimate shots of interviews with Childs, his mother and Shakur. Anecdotes, confessions and jokes narrate Childs’ emotionally charged life, heightening the dramatics of the film without ostentatious effects.

The camera follows Childs around the “supposed City of Brotherly Love,” as he says.

Sights like South Philadelphia High School and the first place he lived when he was exiled from his mother’s house jolt emotional memories and a strong sense of redemption.

The culmination of the film involves a touching paternal moment with Childs’ niece, a significant accomplishment – Childs’ father smashed in the head of Childs’ grandfather with a hammer when Childs was a young boy.

A strong commitment to music can be seen through seniors Topher Wright and Shea Quinn’s self-written, -produced and -performed musical score. Their beat-boxing talent adds a necessary flavor to an otherwise simple yet poignant film.

Cofi Asante, the president and founder of NCCF, Childs and Shakur agreed.

The screening was their first glimpse of the product of a semester long project involving much cooperation and time on the parts of all three men.

“I am very moved,” Asante says composed. “You told the story with integrity.”

Shakur believes this film has the power to change someone’s life. He believes the viewers will say after witnessing the film.

“I’m overjoyed,” Childs says, smiling wide and motioning with arms in a neutral-colored shirt and tie. “I didn’t want to take credit for NCCF. I don’t feel worthy. I don’t want this to be about me.”

“I have never been more proud to be a part of a production than at this moment,” says Dan Hunt, vice president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Arts. He spent a great amount time in the studio working on this project.

Moved to tears, Hunt attests that he believes this documentary will win major film festivals.

With its emotional richness and professional production skills, these students and faculty members will certainly earn praise for their impressively hard work.