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Try Harder! * For College Bound Seniors, This Film is Completely Relatable and Eye-Opening

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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Movie Reviews
Try Harder! * For College Bound Seniors, This Film is Completely Relatable and Eye-Opening

At Lowell High School, the top public high school in San Francisco, the seniors are stressed out. As they prepare for the emotionally draining college application process, students are keenly aware of the intense competition for the few open spots in their dream colleges. At Lowell — where cool kids are nerds, nearly everyone has an amazing talent, and most of the student body is Asian American — the things that usually make a person stand out can feel commonplace. With humor and heart, director Debbie Lum captures the reality of the American college application process and the intersection of class, race, and educational opportunity as young adults navigate a quintessential rite of passage.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ashleigh C. comments, “The college admissions process is one of the most competitive endeavors children in America face every year. As a senior in high school currently going through it, I found this film relatable and eye-opening to the hardships that I and many others are facing.” See her full review and interview below.

Try Harder!

By Ashleigh Clyde, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

https://youtu.be/auAQA5pYcbU

The college admissions process is one of the most competitive endeavors children in America face every year. As a senior in high school currently going through it, I found this film relatable and eye-opening to the hardships that I and many others are facing.

Try Harder! takes us through the admissions process by following members of the senior class at Lowell High School, a prestigious, nationally ranked school. The students in the film all share the same process, yet different personal experiences which make the process more complex.

https://youtu.be/6qMaarHP7Lc

The stereotypes of immigrant parents reign true in this documentary. It considers different viewpoints on the different aspects of the admissions process – from test scores to essays. I love that the film ponders questions we will never get to uncover such as, if you should be humble in writing your essay or not. It questions whether you should check the “I do not wish to disclose” when asked for your race or gender. This film also touches on heavy social issues such as the stereotypes placed on African Americans and their academic abilities, racial discrimination in the admission’s process, and the mental health of students in pressurized households.

One of students in the film mentions a very powerful message applicable to this situation, but also in any difficult situation – “People who apply and don’t work hard, yet still get in, rubs me the wrong way.” This quote exemplifies how, during a competition of any sort, you must work hard and overcome those people making it difficult for you to succeed or to be happy. This film promotes positive social behavior and mentions mental health.

I give Try Harder! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. Try Harder! opens in theatres December 3, 2021.

Queen of the Beach * A Gritty, Honest Portrayal Of A Child Laborer’s Journey To Achieve Her Dreams

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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Movie Reviews
Queen of the Beach * A Gritty, Honest Portrayal Of A Child Laborer’s Journey To Achieve Her Dreams

While on vacation in Goa, India, Canadian filmmaker Chris McDonell turns his camera on Shilpa Poojar, a 9-year-old beach hawker hustling tourists to buy clothes and jewelry from her seaside shop. Funny, charming and skilled beyond her years, she is a migrant worker from the unique Banjara people and the primary breadwinner for her family. Forging a connection in this chance encounter, Chris returns 3 times over the next 7 years to capture Shilpa’s story of sacrifice and survival and help her achieve her childhood dream of going to school – a relentless effort that will test them both along the way. See his complete review below.

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Queen of the Beach
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

A gritty, honest portrayal of a child laborer’s life and her journey to achieve her dreams, Queen of the Beach is a touching documentary film highlighting a global issue in an emotionally-sensitive, thorough, and unique way.

Christopher McDonell is a Canadian filmmaker on a month-long project in India, following some missionaries from his church on their trip. He makes a quick stop at Anjuna Beach in Goa, where he meets nine-year-old Shilpa, a child laborer who is the sole breadwinner in her family. Tenacious and witty, Shilpa instantly forms a bond with McDonell and he returns three times over the next seven years as Shilpa’s “brother,” visiting her village and learning more about her tribe, the Banjaras’, way of life. He makes it his mission to help Shilpa realize her childhood dream of attending school in her small village in Karnataka; over the course of the film, both Shilpa and Chris must overcome several obstacles to reach this goal.

This is one of the most engaging documentaries that I’ve come across; Shilpa and her friends are vibrant, sweet individuals with layered personalities. Her smile lights up the screen and there’s never a dull moment; McDonnell’s sprightly narration ensures that the pace of the film never drops even when they face some dead-end challenges. Since McDonell poses deep, personal, and tough questions to Shilpa, her friends, and her family, viewers come away from the film feeling like they really know her and her world. Even though the film was shot over the course of seven years, footage taken in 2009 does not feel drastically different from footage taken in 2015; the production quality of this documentary is spectacular throughout the 100 minute duration.

Queen of the Beach is all about making your dreams come true and never giving up even when life throws you a curveball. One thing to watch out for in the film: some mentions of pedophilic activity that occur on the beach at night, and McDonell catches some of this on film. Thematically, this film is for teenage audiences and older as it deals with child labor.

I give Queen of the Beach 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Queen of the Beach premieres August 15 (Indian Independence Day) both on digital and on demand from Under the Milky Way Productions.

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It * Stunning In-Depth Look at One Of Hollywood’s Most Trailblazing Actors

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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Movie Reviews
Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It * Stunning In-Depth Look at One Of Hollywood’s Most Trailblazing Actors

A-photo-of-Rita-Moreno-BTS-of-West-Side-Story-from-the-film-RITA-MORENO-JUST-A-GIRL-WHO-DECIDED-TO-GO-FOR-IT-Courtesy-of-MGM-Media-Licensing.s.jpeg

A photo of Rita Moreno behind the scenes of WEST SIDE STORY from the film RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT

Courtesy of MGM Media Licensing

Over a 70+ year career, Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become a celebrated and beloved actor, one of the rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award Winners of our time. Born into poverty on a Puerto Rican farm, Moreno and her seamstress mother immigrated to New York City when Moreno was five years old. After studying dance and performing on Broadway, Moreno was cast as any ethnic minority the Hollywood studios needed filled, be it Polynesian, Native American or Egyptian. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” (1961), the studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent. Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It illuminates the humor and the grace of Moreno, as well as lesser-known struggles faced on her path to stardom, including pernicious Hollywood sexism and abuse, a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando, and serious depression a year before she emerged an Oscar winner. Moreno’s talent and resilience triumphed over adversity, as she broke barriers, fought for representation and forged the path for new generations of artists. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S. comments, “Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is the ultimate in-depth documentary about one of Hollywood’s most trailblazing actors. This film is the absolute tear-jerking, hysterical, educational experience of the year.” Ashleigh C. adds, “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is a trailblazing documentary that will inspire girls across the world who have a dream! Rita Moreno’s life story is a testament to her perseverance and others like her who had a dream and decided to go for it.” See their full reviews and Ashleigh’s interview with director Mariem Perez below.

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It

By Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

https://youtu.be/OOsLO1i8cx8

Rita-Moreno-in-the-film-RITA-MORENO-JUST-A-GIRL-WHO-DECIDED-TO-GO-FOR-IT-Photo-Credit-Courtesy-of-Roadside-Attractions.jpg

Rita Moreno in the film RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It is the ultimate in-depth documentary about one of Hollywood’s most trailblazing actors. This film is the absolute tear-jerking, hysterical, educational experience of the year. By the movie’s end, you just want to go for it too.

Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It recounts the life story of critically acclaimed actress Rita Moreno. Rita, who is best known for her roles of Anita in West Side Story and Carmela in The Electric Company, stars in the documentary, along with stars like Whoopie Goldberg, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria and more. The film features clips from a large variety of Rita’s films throughout her career as well as from award shows, and photographs and footage from her personal life, including interviews with her friends and family.

This film shines a light on how incredible Rita is, and how human as she leads the way for Puerto Ricans and all Hispanics in the 1960s, stands up for women’s rights and fights to be able to choose which roles she plays. She deals with being type-cast as an island or Hispanic character, and decides and turns down roles that would shove her into a tiny box. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Rita’s life, not just grazing at the surface. It shows how Rita struggled with hating her Hispanic roots, because it limited her as an actress. She tells how she was sexually abused, was forced into an abortion by her then-boyfriend Marlon Brando, and tried to commit suicide. The film shows exactly why Rita is such a beloved actress and person. Despite all she’s been through, she never gives up and learned to value the woman she is. Rita grows into her own person throughout the movie, telling how everything that put her down at the time just made her stronger.

The moral of the film is to stay strong and keep fighting. Rita is not eighty-nine years old and one of 15 EGOT winners (acronym for the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards), just because she gave up. Being a Puerto Rican actress in New York and trying to find your way in the world wasn’t as easy as Moreno makes it look. She has maintained her humbleness and blossomed into a modern woman who fights for human rights and looks great while doing it.

I give Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters June 18, 2021.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 17

https://youtu.be/AhPGxaPBH9A

Rita-Moreno-in-the-United-States-Senate-from-the-film-RITA-MORENO-JUST-A-GIRL-WHO-DECIDED-TO-GO-FOR-IT-Courtesy-of-Roadside-Attractions.jpg

Rita Moreno in the United States Senate from the film RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT

Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Girl Who Decided to Go For It is a trailblazing documentary that will inspire girls across the world who have a dream! Rita Moreno’s life story is a testament to her perseverance and others like her who had a dream and decided to go for it.

This documentary profiles Rita Moreno (West Side Story, One Day at a Time), following her life from its beginnings as a poor Puerto Rican girl to becoming an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) award-winning actress. We see her struggles and trials throughout her life and how she confronts and handles them.

https://youtu.be/jl0msIgW46o

Latina Mariem Perez Riera directs this documentary and brings a great deal of passion to it, making the film very personal and authentic. The film employs stop motion animation, film excerpts to show Moreno’s life as a young woman to a legendary entertainment icon and political activist. Not only are the scenes diverse, so are its features. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Morgan Freeman, Lin- Manuel Miranda and Hector Elizondo. My favorite parts of this documentary are actually the sad parts. So many people in the limelight tend to sugar coat the truth about their troubles, which makes them seem perfect. This film is raw to the point that, even though her life has a Hollywood spin to it, it actually tells a story that many young girls can relate to today.

The message of this documentary is in the title – be a girl (or boy) that goes for your dream. Rita Moreno came from less than many, yet lived a life bigger than most. You can do it! You won’t know unless you try. This film does contain a description of sexual violence and some profanity.

I give Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It 5 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. You can watch it only in theatres starting June 18, 2021

Is the Catholic Church Going Through an Inner Revolution? Meet Sister Simone Campbell and See for Yourself!

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7th Wave
Is the Catholic Church Going Through an Inner Revolution? Meet Sister Simone Campbell and See for Yourself!

SisterSimone2015

In 2012 the Vatican cracked down on American nuns for challenging the hierarchy and focusing on social services and equality, rather than on abortion. Guilty as charged! Our guest Sister Simone Campbell and her organization NETWORK are Catholic sisters committed to awakening social conscience and lobbying for change. The Vatican specifically cited NETWORK, so Simone seized the opportunity to launch a series of tours called the Nuns on the Bus, attracting even more attention to the many social needs American nuns have been addressing. When Pope Francis was elected in 2013, he called on Christians to become revolutionaries caring for the poor and now he’s confronting climate change and our responsibility for it. He also met with representatives of America’s nuns and expressed his appreciation. Sounds like an Inner Revolution! Now Simone and two other nuns are the subject of a new documentary called Radical Grace. An activist touched by spirit, she’s is not alone. Tune in to ‘InsideOut‘ and learn more!

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