"We're making music with our bodies. That's slick!"
So says Blessin Giraldo in Amanda Lipitz's new film, STEP. The documentary follows the "Lethal Ladies" of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a step team at a school which in its founding year, vowed to get all 120 girls in its class accepted into college. Led by Coach G, the team takes success to new levels, working hard at school and hoping to win the competition at the end of the year before they graduate.
The documentary first begins back in 2015, in a Baltimore shaken by the death of Freddie Gray. With the recent events happening in the US, the documentary could not have inadvertently chosen a more perfect time to be released... As America continues to be weighed down by issues of racism and hate, never has step had more power for these ladies. Step, as the film so adamantly affirms, is about spirit in adversity, pushing forward and being united even if the walls are falling down around you. Whether those walls are a metaphor for what is happening in society, or in the girls' own home, it is a powerful message.
The film introduces 3 students as the focus of the documentary: Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, and Tayla Solomon. Blessin is the charismatic one of the group, though she struggles to believe in herself; Cori is the quiet, earnest girl, hoping to get a full ride to Johns Hopkins University; and Tayla brings the attitude, and is constantly embarrassed by her mother's exuberant presence at step practices.
Despite these insights into the girls' lives, the short length of the documentary prevents us from really delving too deep into their stories -- we see enough about them to feel proud for them as they prepare for competition and college, but it can really only stay at a superficial level. Instead, the film focuses its 84 minutes of screen time on societal themes through these students' journeys, like overcoming adversity and being all that you can be. The film certainly lives up to its feel-good status in this regard. Perhaps with another half hour of content, it could have landed even more.
Nonetheless, STEP is a wonderful film, brief but powerful. Now playing at Midtown Cinema!