Twenty 12-year-old black boys from one of the most violent ghettos in Baltimore, Maryland, are taken 10,000 miles away to an experimental boarding school in rural Kenya, to try to take ... See full summary »
Twenty 12-year-old black boys from one of the most violent ghettos in Baltimore, Maryland, are taken 10,000 miles away to an experimental boarding school in rural Kenya, to try to take advantage of the educational opportunities they can't get in their own country. Written by
I was all jazzed up at the idea of seeing a movie about a school in Kenya that introduces African-American inner city boys to a culture different from their own and gives them a whole new perspective on being a black male. Unfortunately, there is very little if anything like that in this movie. The boys go to Kenya, get some strict but nurturing tutoring (by white women and men), see wild animals, and climb Mount Kenya. That's it. If what we see is really all they experienced then I don't know why anyone schlepped them to Africa: a camp in the Pocanos with a trip to the zoo would have sufficed. There is one very brief scene where the kids talk about some of their impressions of the way people in Kenya live ("no chicken strips!"), but we never see them interact with any people other than their white American counselors, and ... one particular Sunday at an African church service in town (preachers screaming about sin, sigh!). I think some really good things did happen to these kids at The Baraka School, but the film documents nothing but badly edited soundbites to give us any hint. Even the impact of living in a rural area at a leisurely pace isn't really reflected on. We see it and can feel it, but the boys seem relatively unaffected by it even though I know it must have had a deep effect on them. I want to praise this film for being about an important subject but alas, I can only think of it as a wasted opportunity. A good documentary on the subject could have created a lasting impact on other youths who might have experienced something wildly different and exciting and been inspired by it. At the end of the day, this is just another look at the vicious cycle of ghetto life that will be nothing new for anyone who hasn't had their head in the sand. It will rightly make all of us liberals angry that there can't be thousands of 'Baraka Schools' in the US, but there are countless documentaries on that subject (see "OT: Our Town" and "Rize"). This was a missed opportunity to make a film for the kids in these communities themselves to see how much else is out there in the world.
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