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 ...
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A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
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
An ingenious educational program to turn ghetto kids around
"Boys of Baraka" is about an educational program abroad in Kenya especially created to serve a select group of inner city, black middle school boys from Baltimore. Twenty boys are selected each year at the end of 6th grade, and the two-year program spans 7th and 8th grades. The aim is to prepare these kids to graduate from high school, something that 75% of their peers at home do not achieve.
In this film, we meet 4 boys who have been selected for the next two-year cohort and follow them to Kenya, observing their experiences throughout their first year (7th grade) in the Baraka School. (The school buildings were funded by a Baltimore-based private foundation, which also partners with the Baltimore city school system to provide the teachers - almost all are whites from the U.S.- and costs for the kids.
Footage of the boys is endearing. Positive changes in behavior, language skills and all around academic performance are impressive for two boys in particular. The star is Devon Brown, age 12, who can do a charismatic preacher routine to a tee. He's a master showman. There are good glimpses of teachers and counselors at work, displaying their methods and group and individual supportive counseling skills. In addition to learning some Swahili, English language skills are taught. It's interesting to see the kids become able to move beyond Ebonics. An especially difficult trouble maker was turned entirely around, coming back to Baltimore to make the honor roll.
Cinematic production values are excellent all around. The music is sensational, provided in part by an African superstar, the Malian Kora player and singer, Toumani Diabate. Kudos to the directors for providing subtitles for the boys' dialogue. (Ken Loach is the only other director I can think of who does this courtesy when actors speak in undecipherable accents.)
This film would have rated higher but unfortunately the program was suspended because of unrest in Kenya, so the 4 boys whose experience we follow in the film could only complete 7th grade at the Baraka School and could not return the following year, and thus the arc of the intended film project was interrupted. My grade: B 7/10
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