John Cho at Miller House, Columbus

Review(s): Columbus and Menashe

Two quiet independent films slip into theaters soon, and each is worthy of your attention. Both premiered in Chicago earlier this year at the Chicago Critic's Film Festival, a week-long affair that's proving to be a local film staple previewing the year's best fare. It was there I saw A Ghost Story, The Little Hours, Patti Cake$ and more well before their theatrical release.

Columbus (Sept. 8) and Menashe (August 11) couldn't be more different in some ways, and yet they're strikingly similar. Each follows a male (minority) protagonist as he navigates a rocky time in his life. Each is built around a very specific setting, the architectural enclave of Columbus, Indiana (Columbus) and the Hassidic Jewish community of Brooklyn (Menashe). And each brings their respective world to life in crisp fashion, yet without much fanfare. It's the subtle but diligent care the filmmakers take that pays off for both films. Continue reading “Review(s): Columbus and Menashe”

The Friendliest Island in the Atlantic

When I made the decision to go into business for myself, my mom was not only my biggest cheerleader but also my first client. Her own small business, STEPS for Kids, Inc, was in need of some direction on marketing and business development. So one day in March, we met for lunch at Panera to dig into how I might be able to help.

To my surprise and delight, our work meeting went well and my insights and recommendations proved to be helpful enough that I’m still working with her today on social media and email marketing. It’s been a win/win arrangement, as I’ve got the client work to keep busy with and she’s able to move these efforts off her own plate so she can focus on the work of growing the business.

I think it was at that first lunch that she mentioned that she’d been booked to present at a conference in Bermuda in late July. It would be her first trip abroad with the wildly successful class she’s been teaching and touring with for over a year now. I immediately insisted she extend her flights and take a few days to enjoy the beach while she was there. How could you not?!

Not long after mentioning the trip, she messaged me one morning to ask if I might be interested in joining her. YES is be my answer! And with that, we set to booking flights and lodging and learning as much as we could about what to do in Bermuda (which, honestly, I had to look up on a map…). Continue reading “The Friendliest Island in the Atlantic”

Review: STEP

Founded in 2008, the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women is a charter school with a goal of seeing all its graduates succeed in college. Its educators and administrators set high standards and expect greatness from the girls in their charge. Academics are paramount, and failure is not an option.

For the students at BLSYW, though, it’s more than just a school. It’s a haven in a rough neighborhood; a support network often far more dependable than family; and a launch pad for talent, passion and futures so bright these girls’ll need shades.

It’s a glimpse into those trials, tribulations and triumphs that Step delivers in one of the year’s best documentaries, as it follows three young women in the school’s first graduating class. They’ve been together since middle school, the year they started at BLSYW and also founded the school’s step dance team. The film chronicles their lives both on and off the stage as their senior year winds down, through college applications, dicey friendships and one major dance competition. Continue reading “Review: STEP”