Saturday, August 31, 2013

Best Kept Secret (FILM REVIEW)

Best Kept Secret
Film Review by Kam Williams

Moving Documentary Chronicles Dedicated Teacher’s Selfless Efforts on Behalf of Her Autistic Students 

            Janet Mino teaches at JFK High in Newark, a public school for students with special education needs. By 2012, she had been working with the same small group of autistic boys for four years, which meant that they would all be graduating together in the spring.
            Understandably, Ms. Mino had grown quite fond and rather protective of her class, given how autistic kids are generally sweet souls of unfathomable innocence. In addition, she knew that upon aging out of the system and receiving their diplomas, they would essentially be forced to fend for themselves in a hard, cruel world not inclined to lend a helping hand.
            For that reason, she devoted much of their senior year to preparing them for life beyond the protective cocoon that she had so lovingly created. That’s why she asked them where they would like to work, whether in a fast food restaurant, a factory or elsewhere, with the hope that she might be able to help them avoid ending up vegetating at home, institutionalized, or even out on the streets.
            Therefore, after school hours, she would visit various local establishments to pressure potential employers to take a chance on a child with autism. Otherwise, without the daily stimulation of a structured environment, they were likely to lose the communication and interpersonal skills she’d so carefully cultivated.
            Ms. Mino’s heroic efforts are the subject of Best Kept Secret, as uplifting a documentary as you are likely to see this year. The picture was directed by Samantha Buck whose camera captures each of Janet’s pupils so intimately that you feel like you know them by the time that closing credits start to roll.
            Furthermore, as the tears stream down your cheeks, you can’t help but worry about how each might be faring today. If this movie’s aim is to find the deepest spot in the audience’s heart, then bull’s eye!
            A magnificent tapestry of touching relationships more like mother and child than student-teacher. When scientists figure out how to clone humans, they ought to start with Janet Mino.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 85 minutes
Studio: Argot Pictures
Distributor: IFC

To see a trailer for Best Kept Secret, visit:

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