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stepping up
ferguson-68 August 2017
Greetings again from the darkness. Director Amanda Lipitz proves that a documentary can be both inspiring and a bit sad. She takes us inside the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and introduces us to the senior girls on the Step dance squad known as the "Lethal Ladies". The school was founded in 2009 with the goal of sending every student to college, in spite of the challenges and barriers faced in this inner city community. This is the school's first senior class, and everyone – students, teachers, parents, administration – is on edge.

Emotions overflow throughout the film. The normal roller coaster ride that accompanies high school girls is somehow magnified when the pressures of becoming the first one in the family to attend college collide with such harsh realities as poor grades, no food in the fridge, no power in the home, and inconsistent support from parental units. There is also the goal of winning the year-end Step competition against schools that have a more successful track record, and who likely don't face the extremes of Baltimore street violence and poverty that is normal for these girls each day.

Ms. Lipitz' film, a Sundance award winner, never backs away from the emotion of the moment and yet still manages to maintain the long-game perspective of trying to get each of these students graduated and accepted into college. She dives into the home lives of a few of these girls and though all of the parents want the best for the kids, it's quite obvious that the type of home support and structure varies widely even amongst these few we follow.

The real beauty of this environment is that the school provides structure, guidance and support all along the way. The Step coach pushes them hard daily towards being the best they can be going into the competition. The girls also push themselves and each other, and overcome some personality conflicts, all for the sake of a stronger team. The school principal has one-on-one meetings to light a fire when necessary, and you've likely never seen a more dedicated high school college counselor who doles out hugs and motivation in whatever dosage is necessary.

The key message here is that it takes a combination of inner-strength and drive, and a support system of family, teachers, coaches, administrators and friends, for kids to have a chance at finding a way to succeed at life … whether that's at Johns Hopkins or a local community college program. This is a special film with a real-world case study of students looking for a way up, and of those looking to provide the necessary boost.
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Incredible documentary about life, dreams and passion. Highly recommended.
rannynm5 August 2017
Step can be best described as a roller-coaster. This is a film about life, dreams and passion. You go on a journey with three amazing young woman who have used Step to shape themselves into empowering role models. This movie is basically Dance Moms but with a heart, a soul and overall positivity.

This documentary follows three strong, intelligent, beautiful African American high school seniors. It shows these girls in their home life and in their school life. It also shows what it was like for these girls living in Baltimore, a year after the Freddie Gray Protests in 2015. Many scenes in the film portray the "Black Lives Matter" movement and the importance of it. Blessin, our first protagonist and main focus of STEP is very likable and relatable. The audience can understand her struggles and her angry outbursts. Blessin struggles more than the others with her grades, but she is the powerhouse and founder of the Step team. She shows her tender side when she cares for her nephew. The other girls, Cori and Tayla take school more seriously and have strong parental figures that help them through the tough times. Even though Tayla's mom can be a bit overbearing, she has her daughter's back, and in the end, that's what's important. Cori lives with six siblings, her stepfather and a mom who, in Cori's own words, "is like a magic wand." Cori's mom was a teenager when she was pregnant with Cori but her faith helped her get through the rough times.

A big focus of this documentary is feminism and racial equality. The girls discuss this at the memorial for Freddie Gray. Their coach "Coach G" tells them that they are not only black but they are women. So they have to fight harder than others and how it should not be this way. Not only that, but the two dance numbers shown in the film deal with these issues. The First Routine is about Black Lives Matter, and the other one is about Sisterhood. I was really impressed and found myself cheering these girls on through their journey and desperately hoping for them to succeed. Even though I am not a big fan of dancing, I have to admit these girls were really talented.

I would definitely give this documentary 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this film for 10 to 18 year olds. Anybody who wants a positive and motivational movie should watch this film.

Reviewed by Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.
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Documentary following students, parents and teachers in preparation for a step-dance competition and life lessons!
djowens-472-26823412 July 2017
STEP exceeded my expectations! Variety has called it ""Hoop Dreams" for the social media generation". I was skeptical - another doc on the marginalize. But this is different thanks to the filmmaker – who entertained while documenting a slice of life for this group of students, parents and their teachers. See it!
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STEP will move you!
hollywoodhernandez-7086813 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Step in an inspiring documentary by first time director, Amanda Lipitz. Lipitz is normally a Broadway producer but she had a special connection to this project. The film takes place at a charter school in Baltimore, The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, and the school was started by the directors mother. When Lipitz visited the school she learned about the girl's STEP team and met the founder of the team Blessin Giraldo, one of the three young women featured in the movie. She spent several years preparing to film the senior year of the girls who began at the school in the 6th grade. What she created is an excellent "slice of life film" that is very entertaining yet politically conscious.

Beside Blessin the films other lead characters are Cori, the school's valedictorian, and Tayla, a member of the team who got started late (9th grade) and who's single mother is a prison corrections officer. The movie show's the struggles of the girls growing up in inner city Baltimore; a key city in the Black Lives Matter movement, to the simple challenge of having nothing to eat in the fridge. Still the movie is uplifting.

STEP shows us the power that comes from supporting each other, as the girls do in the STEP group, and the importance of having people that care for you and have your back, as the girls do with their parents, teachers and principal. The girls all have the goal of being the first in their family to attend college and to have 100% of the school's girls graduate. SPOILER ALERT: They succeed!

Then there's the stepping. In the entire history of the STEP group they had never won or even placed in a STEP competition. In their senior year the girls get a new coach and take things to a new level. The dancing is soul stirring! As a group the girls come together and compete in the biggest STEP event in the city. I won't spoil the ending by telling you if they won or not but, trust me, the ending will move you to tears.

Much like the movie Hidden Figures, STEP is a triumph of sisterhood and should definitely be viewed by all teenage girls. STEP will move you. It will inspire you and it will having you leaving the theater more hopeful about the future of our children than when you went in. My favorite thing about the movie, besides the dancing, is that is shows there are small pockets of hope in even the worst neighborhoods in America and that with education we can produce more.

STEP was a winner at both The AFI Film Festival and The Sundance Film Festival. Former first Lady Michelle Obama has endorsed the movie too. It's rated PG. It has a run time of 1 hour and 23 minutes and on my "Hollywood Popcorn Scale" I rate STEP a JUMBO, with extra butter (my highest possible popcorn rating).

Hollywood Hernandez
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All-Time Great Documentary
debbie-2560918 July 2017
Step is one of those rare films that is great for all ages. You will go on a journey of tears and laughter with 3 girls, their families, the entire team and staff of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Knowledge is Power but without support the road is difficult. These young women have support but they and others like them are often forgotten. This film will have accomplished its mission of change if each viewer does something to educate and mentor just one child...that is how movements are built!
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Amazing Story
simplesilence5 August 2017
I was so pleased to watch this movie. I found it very relatable to my own journey and it showed the MANY facets of Black womanhood. It would also be inspiring for anyone in any stage of an academic journey, whether high school or college. The movie itself inserts in a community that has a huge story to tell about how to overcome poverty and social unrest. In the end, I walked out of the theater still knowing that Black women are resilient.
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Step Is One Of My Fav Docs Of All Time!
rebelfemme25 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Step, directed by Amanda Lipitz and distributed by Fox Searchlight, is one of my favorite documentaries of all time. When I first heard about the film, I was so excited about it because the art of stepping is such an integral part of African-American culture and history. Then when I saw it, it exceeded every expectation! You will instantly fall in love with all of these lovely young black women. The film follows Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger and Tayla Solomon through their senior year at Baltimore's Leadership School for Young Women. As they navigate the college admissions race while participating in the school's step team, we are given a glimpse of African-American life devoid of stereotype or negativity.

Step is actually a mashup of two wonderfully uplifting films into one. On the one hand, it is a film about the personal struggles and triumphs that three talented black teen girls and their middle class families face. On the other, it is a movie about a step team trying to win its first championship. I cried, laughed then cheered and cried with joy again! You will, too.
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A doc to lift your spirits and make you believe in education.
jdesando17 August 2017
"We make music with our bodies. That's some sick stuff." Blessin Giraldo

As an early member/founder of the Step program at The Baltimore Leadership for Young Women charter school, and at an early time in the program, Blessin can be forgiven for not yet understanding the profound effect step dancing will have on her life and those who touch it. Step is a classic example of an inspirational documentary that stays within good taste and history.

Although the rise of the impoverished but fortunate young girls is the stuff of stories told many times, this doc seems to be as fresh as the dancing that serves as the girls' catalyst for achievement in school and in applying for college. Paula Dofat, the school's academic adviser, becomes the real hero as she fights for the young black women's right to enter the college race with even odds.

Some dramatic contribution is provided by the girls' mothers, who often are fighting their own demons like unhelpful loves or deep suspicion about the whole affair, since more than one mom has never gone to an academic high school, much less applied to college. Tayla Solomon, a blunt achiever, successfully maneuvers her overbearing but loving corrections officer mother, who eventually has a salutary effect on all the girls.

The chief girl for the camera and the story, Blessin, is well chosen: Her good looks might remind you of Beyonce, her talent for step dancing is divine-given, and her struggle with mother and academics make her relatable to teens in need of her inspiration.

Director Amanda Lipitz, whose mother founded the school, uses the camera to tell the story in front and behind the dance. She never overdoes the cinematic eye candy of the dance; in fact she makes you want more as the girls show how dynamic and involving the beat and the movement are.

For sure, you will believe that education like this is the salvation of underprivileged kids, and it is. But funding it, that's another story, at least until we adults grow up from fantasies such as Mexican walls and tax cuts for the rich. In the meantime, see one of the best documentaries in the last few years and be guiltlessly inspired.
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Unexpectedly Inspirational!
abdatutoring16 July 2017
I was part of a group that was invited to a free screening of this movie today. To be honest, I was expecting a film that focused more on their dance skills and performances. However--but certainly not disappointingly so--the movie primarily explored the lives of the young members of the dance team as they fought to make it out of Baltimore.

The audience definitely felt a connection with each of the girls, and when we had a chance to meet the girls afterwards and talk to a few of them about their plans for the future, we were even more impressed by the dreams they're currently pursuing.

As a former university instructor, I wish that all of my freshman students were as motivated as these young ladies. Hopefully, their stories will continue to inspire other young people. Keep on keeping on, ladies!
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A wonderful, inspiring documentary
jvanderkay15 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Like some other reviewers, I was expecting more athletics/sport content, but I found the film gripping, and I didn't feel anything was missing - on the contrary.

With all the awfulness in the news these days, seeing these young women strive and succeed over the course of a year was such a positive experience. This film surpassed my expectations even though it was not the film I expected. That film -- given the obvious skills of the director and everyone else involved -- would have been a good sports movie, but this one provided much more food for thought, and inspiration.
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A bit dull, was checking my watch at halfway point
ungsx4 August 2017
I just didn't get drawn into the plot of this film. They characters were uninteresting, and although the plot was uplifting, it didn't feel very engaging at all. The sound track however was very good, which is why I gave it a 2/10 instead of 1. Overall, I feel like it was just like any movie with only child actors - the acting and story wasn't enough to get me to the edge of my seat.
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Where's the Step?
kristine-ron4 November 2017
I was very disappointed by the lack of attention actually given to Step. Yes, I enjoyed being brought into the lives of these girls and was very moved by the efforts being made by their school and families to get them into college and on to better lives. Honestly though, this documentary missed it by not showing me more about their classes and certainly I would have liked seeing more performances. That's the main reason I rented this movie. The preview probably showed more step than the movie did. Too bad.
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Very inspiring.
subxerogravity19 August 2017
Not a bad film at all.

It's called Step. I assumed that I would get more of a sport competition story. The movie is about an specialized all girls school in Baltimore, with the goal to get these girls into college, which the documentary proved they succeeded at. Step mostly focus on three girls in the high school who are also on the step team, and what their lives are about. Interestingly enough, I'm convince that only one of the girls truly needed the step team for the focus to get a good education and moved on to college, while the other two could put it on their college application so it looked better.

Either way, the documentary did do it's purpose. It inspirational and uplifting how these young woman have put such a positive spin of what could have been a negative spiral. It's a good ad for the great this High School is doing, and because of that it is a great sports story about the underdog done good.

Watch it and it will put you in a positive mood.
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The film is successful when the audience clap towards the end
TheBigSick9 August 2017
Step has a perfect cinematography and sound track, and tells an inspiring and sensational story. The audience clap towards the end of it. Go for it. You will not be disappointed. It is unbelievable that step-dance could really change the spirit and attitude of a person, and that all the students in the LLOB high school got admitted to college.
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Great Documentary
kz917-123 February 2018
Follows the founding class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and their STEP group.

The main point of the school is for every girl to graduate from high school, get into college and then graduate from college.

Raw emotion and choices that some of the ladies make impact their futures for better and worse.

Must see!
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Defeat Early Pregnancy and Poverty!
liven6981217 August 2017
It would be wonderful if every Black Female teen and tween could see Step (2017) because it shows how belief in yourself, diligence, and determination really helps you realize your dreams. Go ahead and envision going to University because there are people out there, including your Stepping Team Sisters that want you to succeed. The young Black Women in this movie are battling and winning their own private wars against poverty, early pregnancy, self-doubt, and substance abuse, by using Sisterhood, Belief in God, and Hard Work – it was a Joy to watch Young Women Win in Life!
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This Film Needs To Be On Your "Must See" List!
Obi_Bamm_Karaoke9 August 2017
Review of "Step"

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," and will release it this August. 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 advisers 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.
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