As a high school senior, my prom date showed up with a top hat and cane. I was so mortified that I literally refused to take a photo with him. Eventually, I gave in and let them snap the shot. But, I remember thinking who does that? Well, in Pahokee, Florida they go big or go home. Campaigning for Homecoming Queen is as hardcore as running for President of the United States. The gowns are elaborate and range from ostrich feathers to mural of slain black teens. The most heartbreaking image is watching Na’Kerria grab 1st runner-up to Homecoming Queen, yet tears streaming down her face while smiling for a picture with the outgoing Queen.
Na’Kerria is one of four high school seniors (Jocabed, BJ and Junior) profiled in this doc directed by Austin filmmakers Ivette Lucas and Patrick Brennan centered around homecoming and senior year in PHS in Pahokee, Florida. All young, all with hopes and dreams and all navigating through life in an environment that for all practical purposes is setting them all up to fail…if they succumb to giving up. Each with a different set of strenuous circumstances. Na’Kerria dreams of nursing school. BJ is a football player hoping to play for a major league. Junior, a drummer and single Dad, will do whatever it takes to make sure his baby girl never wants for a single thing in life. And then there’s Jocabed, who navigates the stress of helping out with the family business while hoping and praying to get out of Pahokee to obtain a college degree.
But, the most heart wrenching part of the film is watching the undefeated PHS football team get stripped of the state title over a student technicality. This is a town of 6,000 people, who big and small victories carry the same weight. Jocabed said it best in her graduation speech, “Your class rand and GPA are only numbers and do not define who you are and what you are capable of .” It’s clear these four seniors are capable of conquering the world.
Pahokee touched my heart because it reminded me of just how fleeting and precious life can be when you are young, idealistic with your whole world ahead of you. Yet, circumstances and life can attempt to get in your way and thwart progress. If I am reminded of anything it is to never give up…EVER!!!
Pahokee can be see at SXSW on March 10 and again on March 13. The SXSW film festival runs in Austin, TX now through March 16.