Boys of Baraka opens with a startling statistic: 76% of black male students in Baltimore City Schools will never graduate from high school. The balance of the film is spent exploring one possible solution: taking kids out of their environment — ten thousand miles out, and for nearly two years.
Some will compare this movie to Hoop Dreams and as far as documentaries about inner city kids go, that’s fair. But what Boys of Baraka has that others can’t touch is, well, Africa. Seeing the effect being there has on the kids — being in a country run by black folks, miles from the nearest town, surrounded by people poorer than them but prideful — is worth the trip.
It made me think about the middle passage and all the family history and heritage lost beyond doors of no return; connections we can never reestablish. It reminded me of the importance of knowing you come from someplace you can be proud of. All things lost through slavery. The question the film asks, then, is can this kind of journey back to Africa begin to help kids rebuild some of this for themselves? Can what was lost be regained in some way?
As you might expect, Baraka doesn’t provide any easy answers. But it does ask a number of thoughtful questions, and that’s why it matters.
Read more about Boys of Baraka at Loki Films