A group of 12 teenagers from various backgrounds enroll at the American Ballet Academy in New York to make it as ballet dancers and each one deals with the problems and stress of training and getting ahead in the world of dance.
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In New York, the polite dance instructor Pierre Dulaine sees a black teenager vandalizing the car of the director of a public school and on the next day he volunteers to teach dance to students to give respect, dignity, self-confidence, trust and teamwork. The reluctant director Augustine James offers the troublemakers that are in detention expecting Pierre to give-up of his intentions. Pierre struggles against the prejudice and ignorance of the students, parents and other teachers, but wins his battle when the group accepts to compete in a ballroom dance contest. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I saw this film on March 28th, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture " explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland gave that award to this film.
The setting is a rundown high school in a poor minority neighborhood in Manhatten. The students have a challenging family environment. Their parents are depicted as mostly unemployed and drunks, drug users, prostitutes, and low-lifes. Their children reflect this environment. They hide their low self esteem with bravura, petty crimes, slang, rudeness, indifference and, above all, their love of hip-hop music.
By accident and fate, Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) walks into the Principal's office. He is challenged to work with the worst of the students as a volunteer in the detention hall after school. Pierre is an ex-professional ballroom dancer and runs a ballroom dancing school. He decides to get to the kids with ballroom dancing. His competition is hip-hop music and hip-hop dancing and the ghetto, chip-on-the-shoulder attitudes.
Pierre tackles his assignment with presence. He is impeccably dressed, polite, and exudes intensity and confidence. Over time and with difficulty, he starts to bring the troubled teens up to his level. He never goes down to their level. And then he challenges the teens with a city-wide ballroom dance contest, and the story takes off.
Pierre attempts to give hope to the students by having them make good choices. Pierre's tools are his own spirit, grace, sacrifice and charm. He wills his way into getting respect from the students.
The movie has the same inspirational feel as "Mad Hot Ballroom" but is much different. This film is fiction and about older students and is much more edgy and brutal.
While the film is occasionally edgy and dark, the music and dance makes this strangely a light and entertaining watch for most of the time. And the music and dance are eclectic from Gershwin to 50 Cents and from Tango to slow motion Breakdance.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
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