“Fresh” film shows at cinema

John Wenzel

Urban dramas have become popular in today’s cinematic culture, bringing audiences into life in the ghetto among drug dealers, rappers and gangsters. We often see gang life, with its drinking and drug use, glamorized on the big screen as the inevitable fate of youngsters trapped in that world.

However, in his debut film “Fresh,” director Boaz Yakin puts a new spin on adolescent life in the ghetto. Yakin introduces us to 12-year-old Michael, known on the street as Fresh, played by debut actor Sean Nelson (who would go on to costar in the later films “American Buffalo” and “Wood”).

Fresh, living in a rundown apartment building with his aunt and 11 other foster children, is caught up in the gang world as a drug runner. His parents are largely absent from his life, except his deadbeat father (Samuel L. Jackson), with whom Fresh occasionally sneaks away to play chess. But there is more to Fresh than meets the eye.

Just as he is beginning to notice the cracks in the world around him, a cataclysmic event in his life plunges Fresh into a quest for revenge. Although he’s just a 12-year-old boy, Fresh decides to take on the gang world, playing by their rules but beating them at their own game.

His intelligence, agility and skill for gaming lead him on a real-life chess match against murderous drug kingpins, where checkmate can mean the difference between life and death.

Boaz Yakin, who later went on to direct “Remember the Titans,” creates a world where there are options for youths beyond gang life. The generic violence and rap music of pop culture movies are replaced by the new perspective on gangs as created by Yakin.

This independent production shared the Filmmaker’s Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival alongside “Clerks,” and has been called “an original, highly polished voice.”

This third offering of Villanova’s Spring 2005 Cultural Film Series, “Fresh”, will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 & 7 p.m., and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with I.D. and $5 for all others.

The Monday evening showing only will feature Africana Studies professor Maghan Keita, who will introduce the screening and present a discussion, “Boy N the Hood,” after the viewing period.