Review: 'Step' Reveals A Different Way Of Life For Baltimore Teens

If you had asked me a week ago, “what is the film Step bout?” I would’ve answered something along the lines of "it’s about a group of high school girls that step". While that is the case, after I was able to view an advanced screening of the documentary earlier this week, I would have to also add the fact that while this movie does showcase the act of stepping, much of the focus is geared toward creating a story that instead, uses step as the backdrop to provide a window into the lives of a group of inner city Baltimore, high school girls. And I think that this is in fact the biggest flaw of the film.

The filmmakers touch on how step is a way of life for a lot of these girl’s, amongst many other things; it teaches discipline, sisterhood, perseverance, courage, and provides a means for therapy. While these themes do become apparent throughout the documentary, I do wish that the actual act of stepping hadn’t been relegated to 1-2 min. step practices and two actual performances. I also, think that there was a missed opportunity in showing the connection that step has to the Black community. In the very beginning of the film, they showcase the events surrounding the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police, to give us perspective on the world in which we are about to get a glimpse into. I thought that that could’ve made for a great segue into perhaps, giving a brief history of step and its connection to the Black community, but besides some of the girls describing how the media attention that surrounded those events made them feel, it stops there and shifts over to the lives of the girls.

Though it showcases the entire Lethal Ladies of BLSYW (Baltimore Leadership School for Young Woman) step team, the film chooses to focus in on the stories of three girls in particular. One girl’s name is Blessin, who is a graduating senior,  founder and captain of the step team. The most lively, outspoken, and outgoing of the three, her life has been anything but easy. Due to family and other personal problems her schooling was something that suffered terribly. Now with the reality of graduation fast approaching she soon understands that the very thing that she didn’t take seriously for so many  years is the only thing that’ll help her get out of her mother’s house, ending the cyclical nature of poverty that characterizes not just her family, but the area as well. Another girl’s name is Cori, who is the exact opposite of Blessin in just about every imaginable way possible; she’s more quiet, is valedictorian of the graduating class, and though she’s not immune to the everyday of struggles of poverty, she has a mother and stepfather there that are with her every step of the way. Much of her story focuses on her journey of trying to get accepted into her dream school, John Hopkins. Then there’s Tayla, whose overly-devoted (but rightfully so), loving mother, eclipses much of Tayla’s actual story, with her helicopter style of parenting, and overall animated personality.

The intentional beats of humor that were sprinkled throughout the documentary and also the actual bits of humor from the people within the story was an aspect of the documentary that I really liked. Usually, with documentaries because the focus is generally on simply getting the story right, something like humor is often times not even in the peripheral mind of a filmmaker that’s shooting documentary-style. It's just not a common thing. So, needless to say when I came across those humorous bits and hearing the way that the audience reacted to them, it was a nice surprise to be reminded that even in showcasing a certain aspect of real life, you don’t have to ignore the humor that innately comes along with it.

Besides the humor, the emotion was another thing that stuck out for me. It may be showing a bit of bias but I love a good story about triumph, where people overcome some kind of obstacle(s) in their life. Seeing as though this movie explores the poverty within Baltimore area through the eyes of adolescence and watching them trying to be more than just another statistic, this documentary definitely hit all the right emotions for me personally, even going as far as to aid in the production of a few moments of watery eyes throughout the viewing.

Now, I know that I’m showing bias with this next point but for this documentary to feature people that live within the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia metropolitan area) area was pretty cool to me. Though I am aware of the running joke within the area about Baltimore, though located in Maryland, not being a part of the DMV, but instead being it’s own separate entity, and though I may have reinforced that thought form time to time, it was nice actually having some kind of knowledge about the various things that were referenced throughout the documentary, even down to the (s/o) lowkey diss to my alma mater, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, and their step team the Lady Raiders.

Though this documentary isn’t the best produced to ever exist, and though it’s another, “let’s give you a glimpse into a world that most of us, if given the opportunity, would choose to stay away from” kind of story, Step is by no means something that should be skipped over either. If given the chance to ever watch this documentary, please do so. Though the story is nothing new, it’s one that’ll never go out of style. Often times we need reminders about how the “other” side lives in order to really bring perspective into our own lives.

Rating: 3 out of 5