March 31, 2017 — When the documentary The Bad Kids won the 2016 Special Jury Prize for Vérité Filmmaking, the jury called it “A film that artfully avoids cliches by taking us into an overlooked world and illuminating not only the ugly reality but the humanity of the characters.”
The film deals with a group of high school students growing up in an indigent area of the Mojave Desert.
Their young lives have been affected by the difficulties that they have grown up with: Alcoholism, drug abuse (both their own and their parents’), absentee parents, teenage pregnancy, poverty and hopelessness are just a few of their issues. Many have no place to sleep. Hunger is a problem. It is easy to understand that doing well in school feels like a low priority to them.
The system is ready to give up on them. But they are given a final opportunity to earn a high school diploma — they are placed in Black Rock Continuation High School, the last chance school for troubled kids.
There they meet Vonda Viland, the principal of the school, and her remarkable and caring staff. Viland’s approach is that keeping the kids in school is the priority; Viland often gets into school at 5 and starts making calls to the kids most likely to miss school.
She has been known to drive out to pick up kids with no way to get to class.
Viland and her dedicated teachers understand the need these kids have for a grown-up’s guidance. “Children drop out of school because they have no adult to care for them,” says the principal.
Although some kids still don’t succeed, the graduation rate at Black Rock has been improving every year.
“When a Black Rock student graduates, Vonda makes an announcement on the intercom. She then puts a gown on that student, and they walk down the school’s shabby hallways as everyone steps out of their class and cheers them on. Tears of pride stream down everyone’s face, the audience included. …
It’s scenes like these that make The Bad Kids a genuinely uplifting documentary, and that wasn’t just a trick pulled off in the editing room. Fulton and Pepe have uncovered a group of people who are actually, genuinely making a positive difference in the world and told their story with as little intrusion as possible.The Bad Kids might be rooted in harsh realities, but it’s a film abounding in warmth, love and empathy.” Exclaim!
Order the Bad Kids on DVD or Blu-ray — the title releases tomorrow. Or you can stream it immediately on Amazon Video.