Step, the uplifting documentary about the titular dance team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, offers a compelling street-level snapshot of today’s African American female youth within the inherently entertaining wrappings of a competition.
Set against the backdrop of the Freddie Gray murder and civil unrest in Charm City, Amanda Lipitz’s film skims the surface of larger issues facing the featured subjects (e.g. boys, poverty) but sticks to the ladies’ attempts to get into college —and struggles to finance a secondary education — and the team’s big year-end step showdown at Bowie State.
Comprised of standard, intimate non-fiction filmmaking, the well-rounded portraits of a handful of individuals makes each young woman easily identifiable by her personality and unique conflict(s).
The teens’ eclectic mix of mothers, many of them single parents, layer new wrinkles atop their already dynamic personalities, as do the educators who deeply care about their futures, occasionally to heartbreaking ends.
Though the competition aspect leaves only the potential for triumph or disappointment and the numerous clips of the team’s practices offer minimal insight into what’s involved in planning a successful routine, the end result wipes away these blemishes to a powerful degree and provides viewers a quality sorely missing from the modern world: hope.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG. Starts August 18 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures)