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Jennifer Merin

Preview: P-Star Rising On PBS' Independent Lens

By February 7, 2010

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At age nine, Priscilla Diaz is too young to compete on American Idol, but she's determined to become the youngest rap star, ever. Performing as P-Star, she plays gigs in playgrounds, shopping malls, nightclubs, at open mic nights and wherever she can gather a crowd. P-Star Rising follows Priscilla on stage, back stage, in the recoridng studio and, more importantly, in her daily family life.

As the film begins, Priscilla is living with her dad and older sister in a shelter. Her mom, a strung-out drug addict, is entirely out of the picture -- except for a brief and disappointing reunion that happens on camera, later in the film. Priscilla's dad, Jesse, is a former rapper whose career never went anywhere, but he's successfully transferred his dream of stardom to the talented and precocious Priscilla.

Priscilla pretty much accepts it as her responsibility to make it big and provide for her family. With Jesse acting as her manager, she signs a deal to make her first CD. The $10,000 advance they receive puts the family into a nice apartment, buys some bling and a SUV. The change of lifestyle is drastically rags to riches, with no restraint. Priscilla steps up as a little diva who's running the show. But she's basically just a kid with some talent, huge ambition and a lot to learn.

Unfortunately, P-Star's rise to fame and riches isn't as meteoric as Priscilla and Jesse would like it to be. She becomes a minor celebrity, but Jesse's breezy spending of her CD advance has the family again scrambling to make ends meet. Priscilla fronts for a moderately successful kids band, and lands a leading role on PBS' Electric Company series. So, she does wind up supporting her family, but not in quite the way she'd hoped. And, she still dreams of becoming a rap star. So, how old do you have to be to qualify for American Idol?

Priscilla is talented, bright, pretty and likable -- and is unsually self-aware for a child of her age. She's actually quite the phenom. She and Jesse are certainly engaging as the film's central characters, and their story is compelling. But what's most interesting about this documentary is the perspective it adds to the overview of contemporary American youth, and our society's astonishing adulation of adolescent fame and wealth. And, the film actually raises a lot of questions about child welfare. Jesse obviously adores Priscilla, but does the managerial role he plays in her life provide sufficient guidance and support for her emotional development?

As filmmaker, Gabriel Nobel never comments on Priscilla and Jesse's ambitions, motives and decisions, nor on how they're played out during his four years of following them. He just documents their story, and lets you draw your own conclusions. Maybe they won't be the same as mine. But do watch P-Star Rising on PBS on Tuesday, February 9. Then come back here, and leave a comment to express your opinion.

(PHOTO: P-Star performing. Courtesy PBS.)


February 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm
(1) Bea says:

Thank you for making this film. I just got through watching and found it heart warming to watch a single father’s struggle to take care of both of his children the only way he knew how. I hope that they can find the happiness and success that they’re working for, and too always remember their values, as Jesse said “family’s family’s, it’s my blood”. I loved the part where they were able to find their mother, and I hope that both of the girls can grow to live successful and fulfulling lives.

February 10, 2010 at 10:12 am
(2) Iris P says:

Totally loved the doc. Jesse has an awesome relationship with his daughter. She knows where he’s at and respects him. You can still see the sweet child in Pricilla that is uncommon in many of our youth trying to make it in this tough industry. Hopefully she’ll keep that for a while before Hollywood gives her the sexy makeover. As far as Jesse, he should give a little bit more of attention to his older daughter. She may start to feel left out and that could be the reason for her failing in school. She bought the disability complex and is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. He should get that out of her mind and get her a tutor – probably too late…. She out of HS. But overall I appreciate when Dads step up. He is doing the best he can under the circumstances. And whose kidding who. Our children are Mini Mes. We want them to acheive what we could not and we’ll go to extremes to help them but keeping a close eye on their well being first. Pricilla is wiser then her years and I can see her moving up….. One step at a time, even if its not to be the 1st youngest Female Rap star. The Girl Is Talented! God Bless Diaz family :) and all the best for the future.

ps…. can’t wait to see your follow-up on Independent Lens

February 10, 2010 at 7:38 pm
(3) CAROL says:

At times it was painful to watch this father try to live his life through his daughter. Thank god P-Star was wise and strong enough to tell her father to stop living in the past. It was unfortunate the older sister had to suffer with unresolved issues without her father taking notice until he gets called into school. It was almost a relief that he had to come back to the original manager so they could get on the right track. VERY GOOD FILM !!! GOD Bless the Diaz family!

February 11, 2010 at 2:21 am
(4) Marsha says:

I loved this documentary. I have a son that is raising his 2 daughters and he aspired to become involved in the business of rap. i watched his dreams fade away and saw him fall into the same mental pattern that the father fell into. The one wonderful comparison is my son’s and this fathers love and commitment to raise their daughters the best way a man can. Bravo to the director and I wish the best for the family.

February 11, 2010 at 5:18 am
(5) Staci says:

I just watched the film. I loved it. I do think that father should pay close attention to oldest daughter … reasom being she is amazing as well, just need to get the exuses barriers out of the way. P-Star is amazing. She should be the the youngest female rapper. My advice .. get her cds and movie footaget to Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Jay Z, or my preference .. Will I AM or Queen Latifah. Those guys are underground … they understand her pain and reason to break out. She’s a gold mine. I loved her and I’m 42. Good luck.

February 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm
(6) mary brown says:

The first time I watched this documentary it truly touched my heart. My family and friends are now just as touched and inspired by P-Star’s phenomenal story. It was wonderful to see the love Jesse has for his daughters inspite of all they faced. Where is Beyonce, J-Lo, or Diddy when you see real talent like this? Much love to you, Jesse, P-Star, and Soul-Star!

February 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm
(7) Detra Tymus says:

I loved the documentary. His daughter is extremely talented but Hollywood is the last place I would want to send her. When the guy took P-Star to open her bank account without her father’s consent, that blew me. I couldn’t believe he did that. Jesse needs to research all the stars/ rappers that sold their sold and their connection to the illuminati. I would steer her in another direction. I cried for his older daughter. She can make it she just needs some extra attention and she’ll be fine. Happy Fathers Day to Jesse in advance. He’s a wonderful father.

July 17, 2010 at 3:16 am
(8) Pat says:

This doc was sitting in my TiVo until the middle of July, and I’m glad I finally watched it. Heartbraking, inspiring and disturbing, all at once. For me, the main character of this film is Jesse. This is about his vanished dreams, his struggle to be a good man, a good father, and keep his family together via the success of Priscilla.
I disagree with Jennifer’s assessment that the reunion with the mother was disappointing. I think it went as good as it could’ve gone. Solsky was in free-fall until the moment she was able to embrace her mother.
I’m shocked no one has commented on the quite disturbing part of the film: the pedophilia vein that runs all the way through. It starts when Jesse, Priscilla, and Hunc are in Puerto Rico, in the hotel’s pool. Hunc is in the water with her, holding her as she tries to swim. The camera then cuts to Jesse, who looks on from a distance. A moment later, a still shirtless Hunc is with her in the gym showing her how to get in shape. Later in the film, Hunc reappears to save the day by giving Jesse a check for the overdue rent. While Jesse stares at the check in awe, Hunc reminds him who his friends are then yells, “P, let’s go!!” The way it’s edited it’s almost like he just bought the little girl. In fact, the only fight father and daughter have is over Hunc’s management, which she was in favor of. Finally, the film ends with Jesse lamenting his misfortune, and seeking menial work while Priscilla’s star rises and the suggestion that she and Hunc will live happily ever after. The whole thing gave me the creeps. I can’t be the only one who noticed that.

March 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm
(9) conerned parnets says:

If every child is allowed to attack her mother’s health issues? for fame what is that saying about heer? Her Father need to have ACS ‘s case because if the average man take his young daughter to a night club and add pressure to get money with caughting your mother drug out and not telling the father history of how they met is a sin. What a daughter not to make a second documentary of
her improvement. What the lasteston her father in his carrer it never to late to be astar if you have the talent!
What happen to her talent-yes she has a pretty face which shel ook like her mother . But her back up dancing in her song’sMake you wanna Dance” are out shinning her.The average child at a block party jam has more favor.P-star is a fading star and I am not a fan. Why is it taking her so long to go before a crowd other than night club.

August 31, 2013 at 7:05 am
(10) tiana says:

I enjoyed the film and am surprised thatshe has not been offered a contract yet and is not a well known rapper she has the talent the looks and the charm. What has she done since electric company?

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