Valerie Goodloe (left), daughter Nafeesa (center) seen with grandaughter

*A natural progression for a photographer would be to segue into filmmaking, but it was not the love of films or photography that drove Valerie Goodloe, a famous Hollywood celebrity photographer (shoots for Ebony, Jet magazines) to sit in the director’s chair.

It was the drama being played out in her own household with her daughter who joined a gang and ultimately became a gang girl.  

The docu-film “Gang Girl” takes a look at a mother’s attempt to save her daughter from street life every way she knows how. Valerie’s camera penetrates the parties, the meetings; the drug induced states and reaches the heart of the hood lifestyle. This was crucial for her to do in order to understand her daughter Nefeesa’s mindset which is complicated, compounded with the girl’s LGBT sexual persuasion, also at issue.  

In the film we see Valerie trying various modalities to let her daughter experience life outside of Nefeesa’s gang clique. She loves Nefeesa but so do the gang members. How can a mother’s tough love win over unconditional love that excuses all behavior and makes no apologies?

Veteran actor Glynn Turman and his wife are also part of the film, as mentors, offering a new environment by introducing Nefeesa to a camp lifestyle at their ranch. There Nefeesa is exposed to nature, horseback riding, camping in a serene and protective setting. But that is a short term Shangri La fix because sooner than later Nefeesa  must return home to LA , to the streets near her tight-knit gang buddies  and she is drawn back into this alluring camaraderie, in which her life and other lives are at stake everyday…kill or be killed or go to jail.

This is a film that should be seen by everyone in our urban cities. It is heartbreaking although the central figures seem resolved without tears in their mission.

If you really take a look at Valerie’s face, past the obvious attractiveness, one can see a mother’s strained look from agony possibly erupting in a myriad of heart wrenching emotions in her secluded room.

The film depicts Valerie as a strong-willed mom, unwavering in her determination to turn her daughter’s life around with the help of her husband and Nefeesa seems equally steadfast in pursuing her life as a gang girl with a group that accepts her without question nor makes judgments about her character.  

Throughout the film there are glimpses of hope such as graduation day when we see Nefeesa in her cap and her gown, proud of her academic achievement. Au contraire, we are also introduced to the character Bubbles, a senior gang girl, who has been in the life for decades and there she stays year after year with no way out. In her world, Bubbles is revered.

The film is highly thought-provoking. It makes you want to take action. Valerie is reaching out to many in the entertainment field to help her complete post-production and secure distribution.  Her purpose is to let the film act as a vehicle to help others and together find solutions to this inner-city epidemic.  In light of the recent news about Kashmier Jones who was shot Xmas day in front of her 3 year old daughter, (speculated gang related but not proven) this film is so relevant and this issue needs to be addressed now!  Valerie is determined to understand the gang philosophy so a solution and new mantra for the good can be found among its members.

Those in attendance at the screening held at Sunset Gower Studios included R&B singer/philanthropist Norwood Young, radio personality Wendell James (associate-producer who offered financial backing for Gang Girl); Loretta Devine, Anna Maria Horsford, Judge Craig Strong, Reverend Charles E. Blake and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Glynn Turman, and actress Nicole Ari Parker (who offered the suggestion during the post screening discussion that Nefeesa should try her hand at photography like her mom, as a creative way out).

Post film presentation there was a lengthy Q&A and dialogue session that continued till midnight.

I highly recommend seeing this film.

Photo:  Valerie Goodloe