THE BOYS OF BARAKA (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Those of us who were teachers' pets sometimes forget that the ability to behave oneself and the ability to do geometry aren't necessarily linked.
This film - the first in the monthly Doc Soup series - follows four "at risk" youths from Baltimore who are chosen, along with 16 others, to attend the Baraka school in Kenya for two years. The boys are all African American, many have discipline problems, and the four we meet - Montrey, Devon, Richard and his brother Romesh - all appear to have absent fathers. Richard, who at first seems the smartest of the bunch, turns out to read at a second-grade level (he's 13), while Montrey, who was suspended eight times in the last year alone, turns out to be the top math student in Maryland.
Not much interaction is shown between the boys and those around them, but they grasp that the Africans, for all their problems, are - as one boy puts it - "more united" than the Americans. When the school is shut down after their first year, their parents despair. They can't protect their kids from the streets, and the boys seem displaced - they can't go back to Kenya, but they no longer feel at home in Baltimore.
Alternately funny and heartbreaking, The Boys Of Baraka brings home the realization that despite wars, poverty and disease, Africa is in some ways safer than America's inner cities. (October 5, Bloor).