A Small Act (U)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/04/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 88 mins

Well made, powerfully moving and genuinely inspirational documentary that shows the astonishing ripple effect of an act of charity.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jennifer Arnold, A Small Act is a documentary that explores the extraordinary consequences of one simple charitable donation. The film opens with Harvard-educated UN human rights advocate Chris Mburu explaining that he grew up in a mud house in Kenya and that even though he was top of his class, he wouldn't have been able to stay in his school without sponsorship money from a Swedish schoolteacher named Hilde Back, who was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany whose parents died in the concentration camps.

After graduating from Harvard, Chris set up an educational foundation aimed at sponsoring under-privileged children, which he named after Hilde without ever having met her; following this he then sets out to find her and bring her to Kenya to visit his community, where she's overwhelmed by the welcome she receives. Meanwhile, the film also follows Chris' cousin Jane (who was also sponsored and who co-runs a village school with Chris) as well as three of the school's brightest children – Kimani, Caroline and Ruth – who are waiting to find out if they've done well enough in their exams to qualify for a place on the sponsorship program ...

The Good
The ripple effect of an act of kindness is a powerful and compelling idea that is superbly illustrated here; similarly, the film makes a strong argument that education is a life and death issue in Kenya, particularly for girls, who will otherwise end up in the cycle of pregnancy and poverty. We also see the burden that this knowledge places on the sponsorship committee, since they know that without their patronage, many of the children won't get the education they need.

The Equally Good
The film is extremely moving on a number of different levels, from the heart-warming relationship between Chris and Hilde (who's interviewed both at home in Sweden and while visiting Chris in Kenya), the agonising and heart-breaking moments as the children wait for and then receive their results, to a horrifying sequence as Kenya erupts into post-election violence, with Hilde watching helplessly on TV back in Sweden, while Chris and Jane try to get home to their friends and families.

Worth seeing?
A Small Act is a well made, powerfully moving documentary that delivers a vitally important message. Worth seeing.

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A Small Act (U)
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Content updated: 20/11/2018 14:25

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