Drylongso, Cauleen Smith's first feature film, should be applauded, and it was. Drylongso won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature at the 1999 Urbanworld Festival. Drylongso, meaning getting by with very little, aptly depicts a young lady doing just that. The film centers around a young art student named Pica (Toby Smith) and tells her story staying true to the theme that we should appreciate what we have and we can become successful with that no matter how much or how little. The director takes the viewer through several twists and turns in the plot. Pica successfully comes across as the young girl trying to better herself the best way she knows how with the little bit she has. Her character is an empathetic one who latches on to people who need her and thus Pica's life and theirs become more intertwined then she could ever imagine. Not only does the director involve the viewer in Pica's life but also a little neighborhood intrigue and murder.
Pica (Toby Smith) is a young struggling art student living at home with her mother in a dysfunctional household. In her house she takes on the role as the responsible one caring for her grandmother and helping her emotionally distant mother who seems to party too much. Pica's passion is her art. For her photography class project she must present a gallery showing of her work. Pica chooses to tackle the subject of young black men as an endangered species. With the only camera she can come up with, a Polaroid, she takes pictures of every young black man she can from her neighborhood. This leads her to the meeting of several very different people who she becomes involved with.
At the same time she is working on her project, a rash of killings is taking place in her neighborhood. One of the killings happens to be someone close to her upon which she uses her artistic abilities to build a shrine on the very spot where it took place. Several of her Polaroids are those of the victims and others who die in the neighborhood. She is approached by other families to build memorials for them. Pica consents and without realizing it, she and her peculiar friend Toby (April Barnett), are in the middle of their neighborhood murder mystery.
This cast of young fresh actors was a delight to watch. Especially Toby Smith (Pica)who successfully came across as empathetic but not wholly naive. Smith believably portrayed someone who's caring attitude could get them caught up in a precarious edgy situation, but Smith's character also displayed enough intelligence and wit to turn it around and make it positively benefit her and those around her. Thus staying true to the theme Drylongso.
April Barnett (Toby) and Will Power (Maliek) were a good supporting cast. Barnett did a good job playing the troubled eccentric character of Toby, a girl so mixed up and scared of her own identity for several reasons, she dresses like a boy. Power believably portrayed the sweet and shy Maliek, Pica's love interest.
For good acting by fresh new faces and good directing, Drylongso is a film worthy of seeing. It explores the life of one woman who hasn't yet tapped into the power and value of her own world because she is so distracted with looking out for those around her. It is within these relationships that Pica learns about herself. The added twist of a murder mystery gives the film just that much more of an edge.