I just watched this film at the Slamdance Film Festival, and it touched me in a way few movies do. Director Sam Lee taught young children in Harlem in the early 1990s, and a decade later, she decided to find her former students. The documentary follows five of them for two years as they approach high school graduation (well, some of them) and experience various problems and changes. Each student lives in poverty and some have no familial support. Without giving away too much for those who have not seen the film, I will say that viewers will see triumphs alongside heartbreaking disappointments throughout the film.
Lee does an excellent job of telling each story, filming intensely personal interviews, following them around New York City and beyond, and mixing that with old footage from when the five were in 2nd grade. Composer Jonathan Zalben's score lends an edgy, street feel to some scenes; a classic, empathetic feel to others. While it is at heart a human tale- a peek into the lives of five young people going through upheaval and a teacher who cares enough to stay in their lives- it also can provoke thought and discussion on poverty, education and teaching, expectations on young people, and the definition of success (and "the perfect life.") I was struck by the compassion Sam Lee has for these young people. As a future teacher myself, I felt inspired by her dedication to making a difference. I highly recommend this film to everyone.
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