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Bellyfruit

Co-producer, Elyse Katz.

Co-producer, Elyse Katz.

Directed by Kerri Lee Green. Screenplay, Susannah Blinkoff, Green, Maria Bernhard, Janet Borrus. Camera (Deluxe color), Peter Calvin; editor, Carmel Juneau; music, Jay Gruska; music supervisor, Renee Travis; production designer, Regina O’Brien; art director, Tracy Townsend; casting, Elizabeth Boykewich. Reviewed at Raleigh Studios, L.A., April 5, 1999. (In L.A. Independent Film Festival.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With: Tamara LaSeon Bass, Tonatzin Mondragon, Kelly Vint, Michael Pena, T.E. Russell, Bonnie Dickenson, James DuMont.

Athree-paneled portrait of teen mothers, “Bellyfruit” traces girls of various ethnicities who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. While perfs are competent and ably directed, pic has the didactic, heavy-handed feel of a TV after-school special that ultimately makes it better suited to high school sex-ed classes than to theatrical audiences.

African-American Shanika (Tamara LaSeon Bass), Latina Aracely (Tonatzin Mondragon), and Caucasian Tina (Kelly Vint) are precocious teens living in the Los Angeles area. Abandoned by a junkie mother, Shanika wreaks havoc in one foster home after another until she meets an older man (T.E. Russell) who plies her with promises but offers only sex. Aracely, meanwhile, moves in with her impoverished boyfriend (Michael Pena) when pregnancy forces eviction from her parents’ home. And Tina, herself the child of ateen mother, sleeps with so many boys that she’s unsure who fathered her baby. Effectively interweaving the three tales, director Kerri Lee Green etches a sympathetic portrait of the girls that, thankfully, remains free of sentiment. But surprisingly, it’s Pena’s understated performance that resonates the most. “Bellyfruit,” mounted first as a play, has a gritty look and feel that serve its material well.

Bellyfruit

(DRAMA)

Production: An Independent Women Artists presentation in association with Standard Film Trust. Produced by Bonnie Dickenson, Robert Bauer. Executive producers, Nancy Daly Riordan, Susannah Blinkoff, Kerri Lee Green.

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