The Boys Of Baraka

The Boys Of Baraka


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Being brought up in the wrong borough of Baltimore is bleak - especially if you're black. The cracks in the over-burdened education system are big enough to let huge numbers of African-American kids fall through. In fact, 76 per cent don't graduate from high school, slipping instead into a world of violence and drugs.

In a bid to make a difference for some, a scheme to send 20 "at risk" boys per annum to board for two years at a school in Kenya was set up and this thoughtful - and occasionally heartbreaking - documentary tells its story.

Copy picture

We are introduced to several children, including Devon, a 12-year-old wannabe preacher, who mostly lives with Gran because of his mum's on/off relationship with substance abuse, Richard, 13, and his younger brother Romesh, whose dad is in jail and whose mum is struggling, and 12-year-old Montrey, who thinks violence is the easiest answer.

The Baraka School is an easy sell to parents who just want their kids to get on, stay alive and keep their noses clean. So, off they go, new passports in hand, to experience life in a completely different world, with no TV, low crime rates and miles of open space to "be children" in.

The inevitable teething problems occur as the boys find new aspects to themselves they had previously only dreamed of. But that isn't the end of the story. The heart of this documentary lies in escalating violence in Kenya, which abruptly halts the programme after the kids' first year. What happens next is tragic in the truest sense of the word, as the boys find the horizons that had so recently broadened beyond belief, come crashing back in on them, with wildly differing results.

Raw emotions, both uplifting and depressing, are captured here by filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing. They've taken care to show a balanced view of the families, beautifully capturing the kaleidoscopic element of family life and giving us a chance to share their joys and pain.

Life-affirming and devastating, this is an eye-opening film, offering a childhood insight, reminiscent of the documentary Spellbound, but with far higher stakes than a simple spelling bee.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2005
Share this with others on...
The Boys Of Baraka packshot
Disadvantaged kids from Baltimore are sent to boarding school in Kenya.
Amazon link

Director: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing

Year: 2005

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2005

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Mad Hot Ballroom