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CITY ARTS : Life in Full Cycle


Ten-year-old Jelani Williams is about to take the ride of his life.

Caught smoking by his father, Jelani (Dejuan Guy) takes off on his bike to escape a whipping. He lands on the Crenshaw strip--part of his neighborhood--and recognizes many of the sights, sounds and smells he sees every day--bean pies, hair salons, vacant storefronts, kente cloths, liquor stores.

But when night falls, Jelani discovers a different world.

"Sweet Potato Ride" is an hourlong film that chronicles a boy's journey and awakening to other people's pain and hardship. It is a journey that takes him to an appreciation of his own life.

Written and directed by Kimberly Greene and Camille Tucker of Bigwig Productions, the film explores the crisis of the family in modern society.

During the several hours he is away from home, Jelani encounters a down-and-out jazz musician who talks of his regret for leaving his wife and children to pursue his music. The youngster also runs into his former baby-sitter and his girlfriend, who take Jelani on a mini-tour of the riot-torn sites along Crenshaw Boulevard.

By the end, Jelani is more than ready to go home, where his father awaits with a hug instead of a spanking.

The film is being shown Wednesday as part of a fund-raiser for Cities in Schools of Compton. Tickets for the second show include admission to a VIP party afterward.

"Sweet Potato Ride," Wednesday, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave. First screening, 6:30 p.m., $30; second screening, 8 p.m., $50; (310) 884-6442.

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