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”

Watch This: Chicago’s DOC10 Film Festival

Next week, Chicago Media Project presents DOC10, an annual film festival that presents the most compelling documentary films of the year over the course of a few days. This year, organizers have partnered with the newly-revamped Davis Theater in Lincoln Square to showcase films covering subject matter from music and film to social justice and true crime.

Much as I’d love to, I can’t fit in all eleven films in four days. But I am going to catch a few, which I’m highlighting here. Join me!

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Watch this: I Am Not Your Negro

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin

The hardest part about watching I Am Not Your Negro, easily 2016’s best documentary and most essential viewing, is watching it. More than once, I cringed, winced, looked away, closed my eyes; it was all I could do to keep watching, keep facing the stark reality Raoul Peck brings to the screen through James Baldwin’s words.

In 1979, Baldwin proposed a book, Remember This House, that would chronicle his friendships with Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, each murdered for their activism. He wrote a proposal letter to his publisher, and thirty pages of that book before his death in 1987. Peck uses both as a jumping off point for his documentary about one of the most articulate, provocative and honest voices of the civil rights movement.

I’m ashamed to say I was not familiar with Baldwin before this film’s release. Admittedly (and embarrassingly), my studies have never delved deeply into the civil rights movement. But to think that his writings and debates and interviews have faded from public discourse over time as we remember King and other luminaries more is a travesty, and I intend to seek out his essays and observations in the coming weeks, months and years of this current socio-political landscape we find ourselves in.

Because herein lies the most powerful ramifications of Peck’s flawless documentary: its timeliness.

Continue reading “Watch this: I Am Not Your Negro”