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The Boys of Baraka

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Don't miss the true coming-of-age story that follows a group of extraordinary 12-year-old boys from the most violent ghettos of Baltimore to an experimental boarding school 10,000 miles away in rural Kenya. An emotionally explosive journey shot over three years, the film zeroes in on a group of brave kids who are willing to cross the ocean to chase an opportunity - boys with a fierce determination to fight the label of "throw-away."

Amazon.com

If everyone in high government office saw The Boys of Baraka, who knows what kind of positive change it might inspire? From this remarkable documentary about hope and second chances, the message is clear: The poorest, most violent, undesirable neighborhoods in America are a breeding ground for hopelessness and despair, and there's a solution if only we'd give it a good fighting chance. The scene is Baltimore, Maryland, in 2002, where 76% of all African American boys living in the inner-city ghetto will never earn a high school diploma. As one adult tells the kids at a Baltimore school, they have three choices: jail, an early death, or graduating high school--and you know she's telling the cold, hard truth. That's when we learn of the Baraka School in Kenya, East Africa, where 20 African American boys (ages 12 and 13) are chosen each year to enter a transformative two-year course of schooling, away from their families in Baltimore. The purpose of the school, in part, is to demonstrate that the toxic environment of Baltimore, and its negative impact on the self-esteem of ghetto residents, can be reversed by removing these boys to Baraka, where a strict regimen of classes and responsibilities has an immediate, if not always permanent, beneficial effect.

We follow several boys on this fascinating journey toward growth and renewal. Devon is an aspiring preacher with musical talent; Montrey is a troublemaker with a bad attitude, who dreams of a career in science; brother Richard and Romesh are both accepted into Baraka, and despite setbacks both flourish in the program. Codirectors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady capture their gradual awakening to a new way of living and a new outlook on life, and then comes bad news: Due to security concerns and regional politics, the Baraka program is suspended, and the boys must return to the bleakness of Baltimore. Have they changed for good? Will they find a way to earn their diplomas and have hope for their futures? The Boys of Baraka offers no easy answers, but in showing us a glimmer of hope against all odds, the film gains depth and power with a conditional happy ending. Uncertainty remains, but so does a palpable sense of achievement and self-improvement that could, on a grander scale of government and societal support, lead to a positive revolution in our school system, which currently offers a depressing shortage of options for our most underprivileged citizens. Without forcing its uplifting message, this exceptional documentary offers proof of a better way, if only enough people would step up and support it. --Jeff Shannon


Special Features

  • Commentary by directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing
  • "A Conversation with Bill Cosby" featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • "The Boys: An Update"
  • Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Devon Brown, Darius Chambers, Richard Keyser
  • Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
  • Producers: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady, Nikos Katsaounis
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: IMAGE/THINKFILMS
  • DVD Release Date: July 27, 2006
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000F48D78
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,776 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Boys of Baraka" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hugh L. Fletcher on July 3, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'm not going to write a long review, as I doubt people care to read and in depth report on the documentary. What I will say is that this film changed, moved, uplifted and depressed me all at the same time. It is truly powerful and the best documentary I've seen in years. A lot of documentaries deal with the atrocities that take place in other nations and those are the ones that receive the greatest recognition. I think we as a country take solace in knowing that things are so much worse somewhere else. This film hits right at home and shows the realites I face as an educator everyday. Our educational system is short-changing our youth, primarily our Black youth. When I saw this film, I went to work and told my colleagues to go and see it immediately. Our discussions about this film have all been tear-filled as we came to the realization that we are a part of a system that sets children up for a lifetime of failure. You may not have the same reaction to this film that I did, but you will have a deep and direct reaction to it. It is powerful, truthful, vibrant and spirit-filled. You will find yourself cheering for, crying for and ultimately enamored with all of the young men chronicled in this film. Buy it and invite everyone you know who matters to come over and watch it.
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I teach young men in South Los Angeles whose circumstances are similar to those of the young men portrayed in this film, and it's fair to say that this film very much changed the way I saw the young people I teach. It also inspired me; broke my heart; filled me with despair; filled me with hope; made me very angry; made me very determined.

The Baraka School was located in the countryside of Kenya, and served as a boarding school for some of inner-city Baltimore's most troubled male 7th and 8th graders. The boys who went there were not the "good" kids - rather they were the "bad" kids who kept the good kids from being able to learn anything. The documentary follows four of them for the one year they are at the Baraka school. Those four are: 1) a boy whose solution to every problem he encounters is to start a fight with another student; 2) a young aspiring preacher whose mother is an active junkie; 3) a 7th-grader functioning at a 2nd-grade level whose father is in jail for having shot his mother; and 4) his younger brother, who seems lost but who is academically capable.

In the course of their year at the Baraka school, these four young men are able to experience something that inner-city Baltimore has taken from them: a childhood. They are taken from a world of drugs, guns, and concrete to the Kenyan countryside, where the electricity is turned off in mid-evening. They experience nature - one boy delightedly asks "Did we just see a lizard?" They are taught the old-fashioned way, in small classes, with patience, by teachers who are able to see them and care about them. One reviewer takes exception that the teachers are white. Really? Seriously? So what? As a culminating activity ending their first year, the young men climb Mt. Kenya.
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This is a gripping documentary of poverty and its effects right here in the United States. Someone asked "why do we have to take boys out of the country?" I get it. I really do. Maybe because I have been a teacher for over 20 years, and have seen how generational poverty destroys lives, how there is little I can do for some of these children, as long as they are going home to the same thing every day. Many would be better off out of their homes, too many.
I also think that taking these young boys to Africa allows them to feel a part of history, build a sense of community and ownership, like so many other Americans who are proud of their Irish, Italian, or Polish heritage.
Yes, It left us with questions too. But I'm okay with that. It's nagging questions that often compel us to act.
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Format: DVD
My dream is to open a charter school partly because of how inspiring this movie is. I love love love it! More parental involvement is needed, but getting people out of such horrid conditions is a great step in the right direction. What if we did more of that in more communities? Kudos to everyone involved in such amazing work! Please do a follow up to tell where the students are today.
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A Kid's Review on November 28, 2006
Format: DVD
"The Boys of Baraka", what an inspirational movie. This is a movie that I

could watch over and over again. It is funny and very interesting. It's

based on a group of pre-teens and teens (12-13) who have the opportunity

of coming from a harsh and rough life in Baltimore, Maryland to a strict

school in Kenya where they not only get there education but the also talk

through conflicts instead of solving them with violence.

The boys are given a second chance into bettering their lives outside of

Maryland by being able to spend two years of their lives in East Africa,

Kenya at a school called, "Baraka School".

There's a boy named Richard, who is 13 years old who is determined to

make a better life for himself. He is a strong young black male who knows

whats best for him and his younger brother Romesh whos us 12 years old.

He is determined to do whatever he has to do to be a better person.

There is also another young black male by the name of Devon who is an

inspiration that I admire because he loves to preach and have dreams

about becoming a pastor one day. Even though his mother is struggling

from abusing drugs, that's not going to stop this young inspiration from

achieving his dream.

As they are living in Kenya the boys really don't like it because they

start missing their families and because they brought their lifestyles

from Baltimore to Kenya which makes it hard. Not only are the

disrespecting each other but themeselves also.

At then end of this movie the boys are sent home after the completion of

their first year for summer vacation.
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