72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story? chronicles an eventful Friday to Monday story about love, heartbreak and life choices through the eyes of 18-year-old Caesar Winslow (played by Melvin Mogoli). Winslow has exactly three days to get his priorities in order, and decide if he will attend a prestigious university. Throughout the film, what seems to be holding him back is the death of his Uncle Terry, whom Winslow says encouraged him to apply. Additionally, his promiscuous complicated relationships with women also tie into the mix.
Directed by Raafi Rivero the film is a coming of age story based on a short film by Bilal Ndongo, a student at New York City’s Reel Works, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching inner city kids filmmaking.
The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 2. Interestingly enough, when Ndongo first undertook the project in its initial stages, he had no idea it would actually get as far to be premiered at a film festival across the country. During the project’s inception, he was a student at Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School struggling to graduate. His principal told him he needed to complete three art credits; then 72 Hours began. At the very little, he knew he wanted to capture an authentic illustration of what his life experiences mirrored. “When I set out to make the film I was like, ‘this will be a portrait of my eighteenth year. This is what I’m doing now, these are the people I’m around, this is what my day around me looks like,’” he said over the phone from New York.
Rivero credits Ndongo for the ability to accurately portray his surroundings and morph those observations into something palpable for viewers. “Bilal Ngondo had created a story rarely seen onscreen — a realistic look at Brooklyn today and an original story about young love over a single weekend. Through a process of interviews, dramaturgy and mentoring teens at Reel Works, we retained the DNA fingerprint of Bilal’s short while creatively expanding the story and characters,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was crucial for our team to get out and show off parts of Brooklyn that are hiding in plain sight: the parkways, and public housing, sneaker lines and Jamaican patties. I’m excited that the beautiful world these teens inhabit, its accents and authenticity, can gain wider recognition through this project.“
Within the storyline, the emotions displayed on screen feel so real that they are internally tangible. Caesar is caught between the reality of losing his love interest Kaia (played by Andrea-Rachel Parker) and the decision of choosing to go to school or staying in Brooklyn with his homies. Like any other tumultuous teenage love story, here the choices made are often precarious and off of pure damaged emotions, instead of logical brain sensory.
When Kaia starts to see that another girl has caught Caesar’s attention, the jealousy begins. You almost feel the heartache through the screen; that sense of realness is exactly what Parker was aiming to showcase. “I think that everyone, especially if you’re a female, you’re going to see part of yourself in Kaia,” Parker notes. “She’s someone who’s strong. She’s someone who’s emotionally honest. But she’s also someone who – no matter how tough she tries to be – has these vulnerabilities. So I have been in situations that have left me really open and vulnerable, and then I had put on a strong face. I think Kaia’s main story is knowing that she cares for this person and that she always wants to be a friend to this person, but ultimately the two of them kind of have to separate.”
Kaia’s feelings lead her to make somewhat questionable decisions. During a house party, she’s caught “seemingly cheating” on Caesar with another male friend. Yet before this, you’ll see Caesar on a manhunt to satisfy his fixation on his new college crush. You’ll also see scenes of him on a project rooftop in Brooklyn with another female friend.
While watching the film you’ll get a real interpretation of Brooklyn; from its subway lines, streets and housing projects. Nothing here seems gentrified, or ideal—the inner city feel is there without any sprinkles of candy coated Hollywood fantasy. Hence, like watching Caesar getting jumped on a dark deserted like street.
“You’ll kind of see the hiccups of traveling within New York City. You’ll see people getting stopped by the police. You’ll see people going through a lot of politically charged situations, because they’re trying to find their freedom,” Parker explains of what viewers can expect when watching the film. “You’re going to get that energy of, ‘Hey, let’s just up and go. Let’s just be. Let’s just do. Let’s leave on the same clothes, same attire. We’re not worried about being cute. We’re just going to have fun. And you’re going to see what matters to the youth.”
Watch a clip of 72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story? below.