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5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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(Sep 10, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews


'Ballou' Hits Real-Life Chords Gifted musicians from a D.C. high school rise above daunting obstacles in the documentary (Garden Thieves Pictures) When the life of the American Teenager is being routinely refracted -- and distorted -- through everything from;Gossip Girl; to the latest appalling YouTube video, ;Ballou; comes as an exuberant, inspired corrective. Michael Patrei's lively and affecting documentary follows the marching band of Ballou High School in Southeast Washington, where gifted young musicians and their dedicated mentors overcome the crime, poverty and institutional dysfunction that constantly threatens to engulf them. Hewing to a formula made famous bb;Spellbound; and ;Mad Hot Ballroom, Ballou; chronicles a year in the life of the band as it prepares for a national competition in Birmingham, Ala. Along the way they cope with dropouts, family problems and internal conflicts, which Patrei records with dispassionate, sometimes perfunctory swiftness. Talking-head testimonials from the likes of Marion Barry and Jesse Jackson only briefly pull focus from; real stars, including a charismatic sousaphone player who runs for band president, an equally dynamic; leader and the band's director, Darrell Watson, whose compassionate leadership gives his young charges the priceless gift of discipline, focus and unbridled joy. ;Everybody touch somebody; he says as he opens the band prayer. He does. They do. Amen. -- Ann Hornaday --Washington Post

Filmmaker Michael Patrei follows the Ballou Marching Band and their leader Darell Watson as they make the journey to the National High Stepping Marching Band competition in Birmingham, IL and learn a thing or two about themselves in the process. Ballou Senior High School is located in South East Washington, D.C. An inner-city school from which only five percent of graduates go on to attend college, Ballou has a secret weapon in the form of bandleader Darrell Watson - a respected educator and highly valued member of the community. Along with his all-volunteer staff, Watson strives to provide his students with opportunities that might otherwise pass them by. In addition to giving them the tools needed to learn, he also teaches them important lessons that will help them succeed in life. Now, as the band makes their way towards the competition in Birmingham, IL, Watson's students discover just how far a little hard work can truly take them. Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide --All Movie Guide

As documentary filmmaking goes, the subject has become kind of cliché, yet it never, ever fails to inspire: Disadvantaged young people cope with an outside environment that is anything but kid-friendly yet encounter direction and acceptance through an outlet that is anything but ordinary. The past few years have seen films that allow us to watch in oddly invested excitement as kids master things like spelling bees and ballroom dancing, and 2008 brings us Ballou, a rousing piece of filmmaking about the unifying power of music and especially the difference a few impassioned people can make when they take it upon themselves to give back. Ballou High School is located in the southeast part of Washington, DC, an impoverished urban area just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol Building. Only 5 percent of Ballou s graduates actually go on to finish college, thanks to the usual drug-and-crime problems sustained by the low economic stature of the neighborhood. But under the tutelage of a determined individual named Darrell Watson, a gaggle of Ballou s students have found a sort of raison d etre in marching band. Yup, weird helmets, whirling flags, and instruments large enough to topple a kid; not the first things that spring to mind when thinking of inner-city youth, but the dedicated young people of Ballou High seem to live for it. Director Michael Patrei trains his lens on Watson and his generous cadre of volunteers, many of them like Watson former Ballou students. I was in the band, enjoyed it, and came back to give back, says the dance instructor, while another unpaid staff member puts it more succinctly: Band is my life. She s not kidding either; the marching band practices every day after school and on Saturdays, and some of Patrei s most affecting shots find the band honing their skills on neighborhood streets, the boarded-up buildings in stark contrast to the open, unbridled enthusiasm of the band members. This band is like basically anger management for me, one musician admits after noting her newfound ability to turn the other cheek. We get to know some of the marching band s more prominent members, like sousaphonist Lewis, a young man of great faith who runs for band president; as well as the magnetic Kenney, a percussion-playing jokester who nonetheless takes his role in the band very seriously. Patrei s camera follows the Ballou band as it labors tirelessly in preparation for contests and charity events, and the snippets of choreography and bits of music that we get to see all come together in Ballou s climax, which takes place at the High-Stepping Marching Band Competition. Not to take anything away from these hard-working kids, but the stirring story here just might be Darrell Watson. I was determined to come back to Ballou to be a teacher and to do what I m doing, the 88 Ballou graduate says. Watson will call for push-ups if discipline is needed, and he makes damn sure his band is giving him everything he knows they re capable of. He believes in them unconditionally, and they, in turn, believe in themselves. Y all know we here, Watson comforts his band, still reeling from the loss of a fellow musician to leukemia. They know. Now we know. And no one is going to forget that easily. By Dayna Papaleo Anchorage Press --Anchorage Press

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Darell Watson, Rhia Hardman, Kenneth Horne, Lewis Franklin, Rev Jesse Jackson
  • Directors: Michael Patrei
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Garden Thieves Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: September 10, 2008
  • Run Time: 86 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001BQW488
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,595 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I will start with a disclosure: I'm the film's publicity director. That said, that also means I've viewed the film at least two dozen times, and watched it grow from scattered 4-5 minute clips pulled from over 300 hours of footage into 80 minutes of good, wholesome entertainment. The film has a positive message for kids of all ages and backgrounds, and Mr. Watson and his staff are true everyday heroes to the DC community. I hope you enjoy it!

~ The Ballou film team
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A family friendly inspirational film! Great for use in middle school or High School classrooms to help teach Civil Rights and Education Reform.

A must see for every High School band director and music teacher!

Lesson plans are available for download at balloumovie dot com.
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This was a great movie. Seeing the young people and the adults in real life, was a treat! My parents and I enjoyed the movie
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