In 2000, an American lady named Anne Bass stood outdoors at an ancient Cambodian temple, watching some Khmer children perform a folk dance. One of the boy children caught her attention—became her obsession, really—with the elegance and expressiveness of his dancing. She decided to get him out of Cambodia and into New York's School of American Ballet (where Peter Boal, now head of Pacific Northwest Ballet, was a faculty member). But there were problems. Sokvannara "Sy" Sar was already 17, too old to begin training. Plus, he'd never even seen ballet, much less studied it. "This was impossible," Boal says in an interview for the film. "Already the cards were stacked against him... I would've said it's a one in a thousand chance that this could work."

But, because this is a movie titled Dancing Across Borders, you already know how this ends: Sy was the one.

He persevered, studied with internationally renowned ballet mistress Olga Kostritzky, slowly adjusted to living in the United States (a moment of cultural triumph: "Finally I got to laugh at the white kids' jokes!"), and is now a very pleasant and polite and talented company member at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Dancing Across Borders is a super-sweet, happy-ending story, but—it pains me to say it—it's not a terribly compelling movie. You know how people are always like, "Why doesn't The Media ever report good news" and "Why do more people like watching HBO than Lifetime"? Those people are ignoring a fundamental human truth: Human beings like stories with tension, darkness, struggle, violence. We like Hamlet and The Godfather and the Ramayana and the Bible—"happily ever after" is a fairly recent invention meant to sanitize old folk tales, and it's already going out of style.

So while the good luck, hard work, and triumph of Sokvannara "Sy" Sar is a marvelously happy story, Dancing Across Borders probably won't go down in history as one of the great dance-films/documentaries of all time. But it's very, very nice. And ends happily ever after. recommended