They are every empathetic movie-goer’s dream become reality: Kids growing up in the ghetto, set up for a life of crime and hardship, who experience an intervention that changes their outlook on life and their personality. The documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom” does just that, and it does it in a pretty good way.
The film focuses on New York City elementary students who are required to take a ballroom dancing class in the hope that it makes them into decent ladies and gentlemen. Marilyn Agrelo directed this movie to show plenty of emotion while still keeping the traditional documentary style while subjects Heather Berman and Paul Daggett were literally being themselves on camera. This made the movie have more of an impact because what the audience saw is actually what happened. It was not based on a true story. It was a true story, filmed at the time it occurred.
The film began and developed with the camera-man following the kids around, with them voicing their opinions. However, as the documentary progressed, there was a noticeable change; whereas toward the beginning of the film the kids talked in endless rants, toward the middle they had more sophisticated conversations with an increase of intelligence and social comfort evident. Whereas toward the beginning of the film the kids were shy and awkward, toward the middle and end they had developed strong relationships. And whereas toward the beginning of the film the kids did not care about school or even life, toward the middle and the end they competed fiercly in a competition that they felt decided their fate.
This documentary, however, was far from perfect. The way the movie was filmed, with sporadic clips of kids or adults talking about seemingly trivial topics, confused the audience. There were times when the movie was impossible to follow. In order to understand the plot and themes that the documentary brought out, the audience needed to concentrate with intense brain power. The viewer, however, got what he or she put into it. If he or she stuck with the movie and concentrated the overall documentary proved touching if not inspirational. Tommy Behan / Upstart Staff
- Released May 15, 2005
- Directed by Marilyn Agrelo
- Rated PG for some thematic elements
- IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
- Rottentomatoes Rating: 84%
- Upstart Rating: 3.5/5