After seeing it at the Sundance Film Festival, Fox Searchlight bought the rights to Amanda Lipitz’s directorial debut, Grand Jury Prize nominee, and Special Jury Prize Award winner, “Step,”. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to check it out myself as it played at the 11th Dallas International Film Festival, and the moment I read about it on the schedule, it was on my short list of “must see” films over the eleven-day event.
Taking place around the Baltimore Leadership School for Women, it is the story of their first graduating class in 2016. Each year, 120 young women are chosen to be a part of its sixth through twelfth grade establishment with a goal of 100% college enrollment at graduation. As the first senior class approaches their final year of the school, the audience is taken on a journey with its Step Team. For those of you unfamiliar, Step Teams are a performing group of a specialized form of dance made popular with black fraternities and sororities all over the nation and have now become a part of even some high schools. These young ladies (all from the inner city) show their passion for their art as they try to leave their mark on the legacy of their school as well as welcome the filmmakers into their private lives to allow us to have a glimpse on their individual struggles as they prepare for post-high school life.
This documentary absolutely floored me; it’s that simple. In less than ninety minutes, I ran the gambit of emotions of celebrating with these young ladies in each other’s successes to feeling their frustrations learning the routines (I was a band kid, you know) to feeling the heartbreak of their personal situations, with all of this as they prepare for the biggest competition of the year that they have never even placed at. I totally understand and can remember (even though it was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) how important it was to me at that age to leave a lasting legacy of what I and my classmates left behind when we moved our tassels from one side of our graduation cap to the other. The level of pride that this team has in themselves and each other with their brand new coach is just as commendable as the college advisors and teachers they work with, who put in a ton of work themselves to give them the best possible chance of success in their lives. Whether you have a past in performing or are a parent, this film is a must see for everyone that has a pulse. This is a story of human triumph and tragedy that affected me on a molecular level and I would not be surprised if there is not a TON of praise heaped on this by the end of the summer.