Dancer, writer and artist brings 'Bronx Gothic' to big screen

NEW YORK (WABC) -- "Bronx Gothic" is a story about growing up in New York City told in a way you've likely never seen.

Now, the one-woman show that garnered praise a few years ago is coming to the big screen as a documentary.

The star is a dancer, writer and performance artist who reached deep into her past, and her childhood is vividly recalled in the film by the same name.

It's been said that "you can't go home again," but Okwui Okpokwasili found her way back to the Bronx. And we are all the better for it.

"I felt the need to write and make space for a more complicated rendering of a total human being," she said. "A total, black, woman, human being."

One critic called the stage performance "mesmerizing," and at its heart is a conversation between two girls.

"Maybe it will make you re-think your thoughts about young girls," Okpokwasili said. "Young girls who are also black and brown."

To bring her show to the big screen, she enlisted the help of director Andrew Rossi, who she has known since college.

"I knew him," she said. "I trust him."

Her past is rooted in the Parkchester section, where she grew up the child of Nigerian immigrants.

"This is a complicated space that I exist in," she said. "The way you exist in it, right? Let's reach out to each other."

The birth of her daughter gave her the motivation to mine her own past.

"I started to think about, how am I going to make a performance that could guide my daughter," she said.

The result is direct, frank and deliberately unsettling.

"I'm going to use movement in a way that might confound you," she said. "I'm going to use language in a way the might confound you. But it's all shaped in a way that will reach you."

Watching "Bronx Gothic" is a visceral experience that some might call "in your face."

"I wanted a voice screaming out into the wilderness of, 'I am here and this is what's happening to me,'" she said.
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