Suffice to say that Rosario Dawson's indie Descent, which premiered last night in the Tribeca Film Festival, is hard to take on many levels. It is not easy to watch the lovely, fierce Lower East Side native being date-raped by a Waspy frat god who calls her a "baboon" and a "nigger with attitude," nor is it easy to contain one's confusion when the arty-cum-clunky pic morphs into gay porn in its final twenty minutes. "It's a rough ride, and people come out of it either loving or hating it," said Dawson, who's in town for the festival from Los Angeles, where she's lived now nearly the past two years. (Dawson made the film with writer-director Talia Lugacy, a friend since the two took Strasberg classes together in their teens here in the city.) "I'm a little anxious to see how this affects my audience, but I come from that independent-film history of movies like Kids that start up a lot of conversations."
Dawson, in a classy chignon and chiffon-y minidress, was so mobbed by press before the screening at a 34th Street multiplex that we only got to talk to her as she strode on up to the cinema. What does the girl who was discovered over a decade ago sitting on her Lower East Side stoop think of the area now that she's been gone two years? "It's crazy!" she gushed. "I'm staying at the Bowery Hotel now, and I walk down the street and I'm in shadow where a lot used to be because there's a high-rise now. When gentrification first started there, I was angry. Like, I hate yuppies. Then I thought, Wait — young urban professionals. That's me! Like, fuck — when did that happen?"
So, would this child of scrappy artist squatters buy a penthouse in one of the hood's new glass condos? "I'd buy a building!" Dawson insisted. Would it be rent-stabilized? "Absolutely! That's how I came up," she said. Okay, Rosario, we're holding you to that. —Tim Murphy