Kavery Kaul's well-meaning but meandering documentary follows three working-class girls on scholarships through their freshman year of high school at two of New York City's most prestigious private institutions. Sarah is Arab American and a practicing Muslim who fears her Jewish classmates will discriminate against her. African-American Sage is self-assured, outspoken and proud of her heritage. But the most compelling of the trio is Cindy: Born in the U.S. to Cambodian parents who fled the Khmer Rouge, she's shy yet impressively articulate. As she struggles to adjust to the rigorous curriculum and cliquey social scene, she challenges her teachers, takes up soccer and endures the sudden death of her father. The fact that Cindy — a charming, self-defined "dork" — becomes the heart and soul of the film is indicative of the problem at the film's center: In trying to capture three different perspectives, the director dilutes the power of her subjects. Neither Sage nor Sarah comes off as particularly special or interesting; Sarah, in fact, is a bratty, self-imposed loner and her negative attitude certainly won't do anything to improve the image of Arabs at a time when that's sorely needed. As the academic year wears on, it's hard not to lose patience with the film; the same issues — synthesized diversity, the power of privilege, the focus on western Europe above all other cultures — are brought up time and time again, making the movie feel like an endless tolerance seminar hosted by an overzealously PC employer.
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- Released: 2006
- Review: Kavery Kaul's well-meaning but meandering documentary follows three working-class girls on scholarships through their freshman year of high school at two of New York City's most prestigious private institutions. Sarah is Arab American and a practicing Musl… (more)