‘We Were Hyphy’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

As artists and creators, there is always one medium that we gravitate towards to express our feelings. Whether it’s sketching, filmmaking, or music, many escape into these mediums to feel something. Creating music is always a fun process, but when it is matched with a level of passion and truth in their verses, it becomes a more powerful tool. We Were Hyphy is a music documentary about Hyphy, a thumping subgenre of hip-hop, that’ll excite, entice and entertain you. Not only does it educate audiences on the music that should have taken the mainstream by storm, but the chain of events that occurred after a big hyphy musician, Dre, passed away.

Director Laurence Madrigal brought artists together who were present during this movement in the Bay Area and those who grew up learning about this subgenre of hip-hop. Even though these musicians created their own vibe and their own music to dance to, the feeling these songs gave everyone came straight from the heart to move them in many ways. Dancing and music are such powerful expressions of emotions and Madrigal showed this extremely well. This documentary goes back to basics and strips down what the audience knows about hip-hop music. If you aren’t from the Bay Area, Madrigal explains the different sounds and energy to the audience. He shows the history of the culture within the early 2000s and makes the viewer feel like you’re right there with them.

This music documentary really explored the importance of the Bay Area culture and how their personal lives pushed the movement forward. Writers often create stories based on what they know, and as was stated in the documentary, the music was a mirror of the streets in the Bay Area. From the footage from the actual sideshows, of each artist making their own music, and to the interviews with notable creatives who lived through it, everything about this documentary highlighted the importance of this movement. Even though some artists did not live to hear themselves on the radio, their legacy will always live on as one of the first to jump into hyphy. The way the music flowed through these artists and the way they kept pushing the boundaries of this subgenre was truly inspiring.

We Were Hyphy is an important cultural movement from the Bay Area that influenced the sound of many artists we listen to today. It’s not just music, it’s a feeling that overcomes your entire being, and you could truly feel that in Madrigal’s documentary. It was filled with good vibes, important music theory, and the discussion of important social issues that became intertwined with the lyrics. Music will always create a safe environment for people to unwind and just feel the beat, and that’s what hyphy was. The style of music is now mixed into the new age of hip-hop and the important thing to note is that these new artists pay homage to the past and don’t forget the pioneers who started it all.

Cinequest 2020: Take Out Girl Review

By: Amanda Guarragi 

“They say innovation was born out of desperation.” 

Take Out Girl is a modern family drama that depicts the life of minorities and low income families living in Los Angeles. Tera Wong (Hedy Wong) is a desperate, twenty-year-old Asian girl, who wants to give her family a better life and help their failing restaurant. To make some extra money, Tera uses her family take out business, as a front for a profitable drug hustle. Her family lives in the projects of Los Angeles, known as the “Low Bottoms” and she plans on moving the restaurant to the suburbs, in order to go clean. Hedy Wong also co-wrote the screenplay with director Hisonni Johnson. Both worked together to create an authentic American film that is rooted in family values and achieving the American Dream.

From the very first moment we lay eyes on Tera, she has a very rigid demeanor. She keeps to herself and started hustling in school. She was a very bright business student and she would trade her notes, textbooks or answers to tests for money. She knew how to conduct herself and it was really refreshing to see that kind of characterization on screen. At first, I thought this is where Tera would be making her money but then she moved on to a different side hustle. As Tera goes on her journey with Kingpin Lalo (Ski Larr) and Hector (J. Teddy Garces) you feel the uneasiness in the air. Due to Tera’s feistiness and headstrong nature, her attitude towards Lalo reassures the audience that everything was going to be okay.

I think the writing is incredibly strong and the story is well executed, to the point where I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. They wrote the tension perfectly and paced out those key moment between Tera and Kingpin Lalo (Ski Larr) who shared great dialogue discussing family. I really enjoyed the soundtrack to this film and the opening credits set the tone for the entire film. $tupid Young and Raja Kumari composed hip hop music that flowed through the scenes. Johnson had some unique shots and directed the film through a lens that was so different and unique, especially in the telling of this story. It’s an important narrative that should only be handled by people who have been close to these situations. Other films lack the brutal honesty that comes with this territory and that’s why voices do matter.

The last half hour of this film, continued to escalate and so much was revealed. The way secrets were uncovered was probably my favourite part of this film. Everything came to a head, the stakes were too high and the connection between Tera’s family restaurant and Lalo was bound to reach a standstill. The tension in this film was perfect. I waited for scenes between, Tera and Lalo because of how strong their chemistry was, which definitely paid off at the end. Take Out Girl is a great family drama that shows the actual state of many low income families in America. It’s eye opening, effective and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.