Mad Hot Ballroom (Marilyn Agrelo, US). 110 min. May 8, 6:30 pm, Isabel Bader. Rating: NNN
SPROCKETS TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR CHILDREN opens Friday (April 29) and runs to May 8, various locations. $11.25, child $7.25, passes available. 416-968-3456, www.bell.ca/sprockets. For complete Sprockets schedule, see Indie & Rep Film, page 117.
Already dubbed "Spellbound meets Strictly Ballroom," this irresistible doc (I can already see it on next year's Oscar ballot) focuses on three New York City public schools competing in an annual ballroom dancing contest. Filming in schools and homes from three neighbourhoods - upscale Tribeca, Italian/Asian Bensonhurst and dirt-poor Washington Heights - director Marilyn Agrelo practically rubs our noses in issues of race, culture and poverty. She's not exactly subtle.
But the kids and teacher/instructors are charming, the competition nail-biting and the dances entertaining, although I'm not sure I accept ballroom dancing as a metaphor for all that is civilized in our modern world.
The real revelation comes from seeing the different ways 11-year-old boys and girls interact. The boys are all intent on competing, while the girls are all concerned with the boys.
Now, that's maddening.