The Boys of Baraka (2005)

There are many reasons for a film buff to love living in Toronto. Aside from The Toronto International Film Festival there is Hot DocsNorth America’s largest documentary festival.

Each month, leading up to the festival, Hot Docs presents a new documentary film in their Doc Soup series. Last night they kicked off the season with Boys of Baraka (2005) directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Both women were in town to introduce the film and take part in a Q&A afterward.

The film tracks the journey of twenty 12-year-old boys from inner-city Baltimore. These kids are given the opportunity to do their 7th and 8th grade at Baraka—an experimental school in Kenya, East Africa. The school is quite strict and has transformed a number of kids into successful students, well-prepared for high school.

Out of the 20 kids that go to Baraka in the film, 19 are without a father. Most aren’t expected to finish school. Many of their friends drop out of school, become drug dealers, end up in jail, or die on the street. There isn’t a lot of hope for these kids so an education at Baraka is an opportunity to “make it” in the world.

Part of the film is subtitled because its difficult to understand what the kids are saying. When you do get a chance to hear the kids tell their story you’ll be blown away with what they deal with every day, how they think, how hopeless they see their lives being. Many of the kids seem to be much older than 11 and 12 when they start out.

There are a lot of funny moments. My favourite was the kid that wants to be a preacher. He does some “preaching” in the film that will have you in stitches.

There are also a few sad moments that will suck you into the film. One boy visits his father in jail (his father shot his mother in the leg in an argument). During the film, another boy is at Baraka talking to his family on the phone in Baltimore. He asks why his mother isn’t there and the family doesn’t want to tell him that she is in jail. Again. Brutal stuff.

Visit the Loki Films website to find out more about the film and view a trailer.

Posted in Movie Reviews at 4:28 PM