Documentary Films | 2017 | 82 minutes
Stranger Says: Recall Hoop Dreams, the 1994 documentary about two black American teenagers who dream of becoming pro-ballers and making millions. Step is not like that. Though having the same urban and class setting as Hoop Dreams (this time Baltimore and not Chicago), these black American teenagers are not dreaming of fame or riches. There are no such illusions for them. Their goals are more realistic: graduate from high school, get into college, obtain a degree, and secure stable employment. As for step dancing (which is not really at the center of the documentary), it provides pleasure, discipline, and a way to discharge a lot of inner-city pressure. Life for these young women is not easy at home or in the classroom. Sometimes there’s no food in the fridge; other times, homelessness is one unpaid bill away. The documentary is straightforward and powerful. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
SIFF Says:Amanda Lipitz has worked for both stage and screen, filming documentary shorts about first-generation college students and producing Broadway shows (from Legally Blonde the Musical to A View From the Bridge). She combines these two worlds in her documentary Step. Her first feature film follows an all-girl high-school step team in Baltimore through their senior year. Lipitz originally met the stars of her documentary when they were in the sixth grade, and followed their academic careers for years before learning of this extracurricular activity. This emotional and heartfelt documentary observes the team as they navigate the odds stacked against them as minorities from the inner city, in the midst of the riots that ensued after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. The sisterhood, the struggles, the heart―all is highlighted in Step as Lipitz follows these girls as they try to get into college on top of working to become a championship step team. Through music and step, their pride for Baltimore is evident throughout the film, sparking a rally of hope and resilience that seems to pour out from the screen.