Extreme interventions in the lives of desperate kids in the hopes of turning them around are almost a sub-genre of documentaries (not to mention the two dozen Hollywood heartwarmers based on true stories). The techniques in real life are varied, and they all work to some extent. In documentaries we have heroic teachers ( A Touch of Greatness), neglected art programs (Something Within Me), visits to jail (Scared Straight!), juvenile detention (Girlhood), and now boarding school in Africa.
Twenty African-American 13-year-old at-risk boys in the projects of Baltimore, MD are sent to a remote boarding school in the countryside of Kenya. There they meet people superficially like themselves (poor and black) but with a whole different set of assumptions and perspectives. They also meet teachers who invest all their talents and attention on them. Of course it changes their lives. Even though political strife closes the school after one year, those 10 months of middle school is enough to turn most of them around. Considering the neighborhood and family dynamics the kids have had to battle, it’s an inspiring achievement. There’s an update on the kids as they head into high school in the bonus features that I wish had been part of the film.
The Boys of Baraka
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
2005, 84 min.
Read more about the film at Wikipedia
Rent from Netflix
Available from Amazon