One of the best docs in years.
Director: Amanda Lipitz
Cast: Paula Dofat, Cori Grainger
Runtime: 83 min
by John DeSando
“We make music with our bodies. That’s some sick stuff.” Blessin Giraldo
As an early member/founder of the Step program at The Baltimore Leadership for Young Women charter school, and at an early time in the program, Blessin can be forgiven for not yet understanding the profound effect step dancing will have on her life and all those who touch it. Step is a classic example of an inspirational documentary that stays within good taste and history.
Although the rise of the impoverished but fortunate young girls is the stuff of stories told many times, this doc seems to be as fresh as the dancing that serves as the girls’ catalyst for achievement in school and in applying for college. Paula Dofat, the school’s academic advisor, becomes the real hero as she fights for the young black women’s right to enter the college race with even odds.
Some dramatic contribution is provided by the girls’ mothers, who often are fighting their own demons like unhelpful loves or deep suspicion about the whole affair, since more than one mom has never gone to an academic high school, much less applied to college. Tayla Solomon, a blunt achiever, successfully maneuvers her overbearing but loving corrections officer mother, who eventually has a salutary effect on all the girls.
The chief girl for the camera and the story, Blessin, is well chosen: Her good looks might remind you of Beyonce, her talent for step dancing is divine-given, and her struggle with mother and academics make her relatable to teens in need of her inspiration.
Director Amanda Lipitz, whose mother founded the school, uses the camera to tell the story in front and behind the dance. She never overdoes the cinematic eye candy of the dance; in fact she makes you want more as the girls show how dynamic and involving the beat and the movement are.
For sure, you will believe that education like this is the salvation of underprivileged kids, and it is. But funding it, that’s another story, at least until we adults grow up from fantasies such as Mexican walls and tax cuts for the rich. In the meantime, see one of the best documentaries in the last few years and be guiltlessly inspired.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com