Kravitz daughter cheered in Berlin fest contender

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Zoe Kravitz, the daughter of US rocker Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, wowed audiences at the Berlin film festival Saturday with her riveting performance as a troubled teen in New York.

"Yelling to the Sky" features Kravitz as 17-year-old Sweetness O'Hara, the daughter of a depressive African-American woman and a New York Irish alcoholic in the semi-autobiographical debut feature by Victoria Mahoney.

Kravitz, who beat out more than 200 other young actresses for what was her first staring role, appears in nearly every scene of the harrowing movie, which she said was a stretch for her.

"Even though I didn't grow up in those kinds of circumstances -- I was very blessed -- I was still lost and confused and alone and sad and angry, all the very human emotions that I think we all feel," the 22-year-old told reporters after a well-received screening.

"So I think at the end of the day, we are all Sweetness."

Sweetness starts off as a bright, well-liked girl who survives a rough neighbourhood under the protection of her elder sister Ola.

But she sets off on a downward spiral of drug use and delinquency when her friend Roland, played by Tariq Trotter of the US hip-hop band The Roots, is shot and killed and the trouble at home begins to catch up with her.

The film drew comparisons with the heart-rending US urban drama "Precious", whose break-out star Gabourey Sidibe won an Oscar nomination last year for her part. She also appears in "Yelling to the Sky".

Mahoney, 44, said such gritty American stories had waited a long time to be told on screen by people from the affected communities.

"The only thing that is unique about this particular film and 'Precious' is that we are in a moment where our films got financed," she said.

"If we go to Eugene O'Neill's (1956 play) 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'... this exact topic was discussed -- the alcoholism and the violence and the pain -- it's not original. The thing that is new and exciting, I imagine and I hope, is that it's coming from a different perspective."

Sidibe, who grew up in Harlem, said she hoped the success of the picture would spur the film industry to broaden its horizons.

"I think there needs to be more stories like that because my life has never looked like anything that Hollywood has produced," the 27-year-old said.

Kravitz agreed that Hollywood would probably have had little interest in a movie about a biracial girl growing up in Queens struggling to escape the quicksand of her neglected community.

"That's a unicorn in Hollywood, that's a four-leafed clover, that's a... leprechaun -- I mean you don't see them," she said.

"Yelling to the Sky" is one of 16 films in the running for the festival's Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded February 19.

© 2011 AFP

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