‘Five Star’: A coming-of-age story about Brooklyn’s gang culture at the Tribeca Film Festival

five star
Writer and director Keith Miller, right, and actors James “Primo” Grant and John Diaz, talk about “Five Star,” playing at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Credit: Miles Dixon/Metro

Blending fiction and reality, a feature at the Tribeca Film Festival explores Brooklyn’s gang culture with a lead actor who knows his character best.

In “Five Star,” Bloods gang member James “Primo” Grant portrays himself schooling fatherless John, played by John Diaz, through life on the streets of Fort Greene.

Metro sat down with Grant, Diaz and writer and director Keith Miller to talk about the coming-of-age film.

Metro: Why do this movie?

Grant: You’ve never seen a film where the chemistry is so real that you feel like — you have no choice — that you’re in this film. You normally see the films, the shootings, the drive-bys, someone getting beat up, there’s a crack head here, there’s a crack head there — you never get a one-on-one with someone and how life is really for them. You never see the bad guy or the supposedly said ‘bad guy’ in the good guy role. You never see the inner life and how s — really goes. That beyond this tough enforcer is a loving guy. This is a guy that made some choices in life and as a man he’s sticking to it, he’s riding it out. You’ve never seen a film like this.

How did you happen to play a version of yourself — Primo — in the film?

Grant: Me and Keith actually shot a documentary on gang-banging and we just kept in contact after that. We talked, shared stories. He had the idea for the film and he asked me if I wanted to be involved and I was like, hell yeah.

How did the two of you collaborate on the film?

Miller: We just had conversations, we just hung out and then I wrote the structure, the skeleton of it.

In the opening scene, Primo describes missing his son’s birth. Why start with that?

Miller: The movie is a lot about fatherhood, sons, manhood. … When we were in the car, I said, tell that story. A lot of what would seem like rehearsal is just kind of challenging Primo or John…to get to the emotional place where the reality of the story just comes out.

five star primo
Bloods gang member James “Primo” Grant portrays himself in “Five Star.”
Credit: Miles Dixon/Metro

Was that a difficult story to tell?

Grant: As stated in the film: one small mistake can get you a large sentence. It was very emotional for me.

Playing Primo’s protege as an actor, was it difficult to work alongside someone more connected to the film?

Diaz: I got a sense from Primo right off the bat that this is something that he was coming from really, really emotionally and it was going to be hard to do this. … I wanted to try my best to give my all to them.

Why were Primo’s girlfriend and children also featured in the film?

Miller: I very actively try to get as much reality as I can. It is a narrative film — it’s not a documentary. But I want the viewer not to know where the line between fact and fiction is. I knew that a big part of the story that was important to me was Primo’s tenderness towards his family and I didn’t want him to act tender towards stage kids. 

Do you ever see using the film as a way to explain your past to your children? 

Grant: No. … I’m hoping that choices that I’m making now for the future, as my children are young, that I won’t have to explain it to them, that this can be something of a fairy tale to them. I don’t ever want them to know that their dad was a monster, that daddy used to be the bad guy, even though it’s the truth. … I’ll show it to them. But, is it something that I want to do? No. As a parent, sometimes you have to hide certain truths from your children.

Why was the movie set in the summer?

Miller: I really wanted the vivacity of the street. When John walks through the projects, everybody’s hanging out. Those were all people we got as extras, but they were just there, hanging out.

How accurate do you think the film was?

The specifics of the day to day life…I think it’s pretty safe to say none of them would happen the way they were depicted but I needed to depict them in a certain way to make clear a certain point. I don’t think bricks are being handed off like wily nilly in the street. … Someone early on said to me, in one of the rough cuts, ‘Oh, the projects don’t seem scary enough.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, so you’ve never been to the projects.’

Were you satisfied with the ending?

Miller: Yeah. The goal of the movie is to upset conventions and expectations and prejudices. … I know there’s a potential for dissatisfaction.

How to see “Five Star”

Visit the Tribeca Film Festival website for ticket information. The last screening is Saturday.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…