Title–A Small Act
Awards-Nominated for Best Television Documentary at the Black Reel Awards, 2011
Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, 2010
Summary-The film shows how one small act can change the world in many ways. It tells the story of Chris, from Kenya, who was sponsored through secondary school by a Swedish woman. Many years later he forms his own foundation in her name to help other children in Kenya.
My Thoughts-I have been wanting to watch this documentary for a long time. Ever since I read the description I have been sitting at the ready with tissues in hand. Just reading what it is about was enough to get the tears flowing for me. The film interweaves several different stories, but they all revolve around Chris Mburu. He was a poor student in Kenya many years ago who could not afford to go to school. In Kenya, if you can’t pay, you get kicked out of school. There was a Swedish scholarship fund set up that sponsored children in his area and he received money from Hilde Back. He grew up and attended college and then went on to get a Master’s Degree at Harvard. He currently works at the UN investigating genocide.
After the success of his adult life, Chris started a fund that would help other Kenyan children go to secondary school (high school) who could not afford it otherwise. He named it after Hilde Back because of what she had done for him, even before he met her. The documentary then focuses on Chris’ current relationship with Hilde. They did finally meet and she even traveled to Kenya. It also follows three students in one of the schools who are trying for the scholarship. Even though all three of them are very smart, the scholarship can only support one of them.
First of all, I ADORED Hilde. She is the cutest woman ever. She talks a little about her life, which is another reason to reach for the tissues. As a little girl, she escaped from Germany as a Jew during WWII, but sadly, her parents did not. She never had any children and currently lives alone, which makes her relationship with Chris so special. He is like the son she never had. I totally loved every time she showed up, especially when they showed footage of her trip to Kenya.
The really hard part to watch was about the current students vying for the scholarship. It was just like Waiting for Superman all over again. These children had worked and studied so hard, and they all know that they can’t go to school without the money from the scholarship. The interviews with them are heartbreaking. One little girl (I think it was Ruth) said, “I can’t even explain how much knowledge I want.” Oh. My. God. Every school child in the US today should totally watch this to realize how good they have it. Some of our schools might suck, but at least every kid can go up through high school without paying too much.
It was also hard because these little kids have so much responsibility placed on their shoulders at such a young age. Each of them had dreams for how they would help their families after they graduated from school. One little boy had a sick mother who needed an operation and he was going to get a good job so he could pay for it.
I did get really mad during the film thinking, “Okay…..these people are movie producers! They should just pay for all three of these kids to go!!! It will be nothing for them!!!” It was just like in the nature documentaries when the camera people stand by and let the baby sea turtles get picked off one by one by the sea gulls. Why don’t they do something to help????!!!! Well, I will say that this question is answered at the end of the film, so thank goodness it was actually addressed.
One other aspect of the film that was difficult was about the unrest in Kenya during the time filming was taking place. There was an outbreak of violence after the 2007 elections that involved the killing of people in the same tribe that Chris belonged to. It was awful to watch his reaction to the violence in his homeland. I also felt really guilty because I don’t even remember that happening at all.
So, it is not the easiest film to watch sometimes, but it does give you hope. The overall message is that every action makes a big difference, no matter how small it may seem. It is great to see Chris and Hilde’s friendship and to see how much he still cares about his homeland even after becoming so successful. The best part is that it is not one long commercial for Chris’ charity. It could very well have ended up like that, but it is not. It will hopefully bring more attention to the foundation, but it does not scream, “YOU MUST DONATE NOW!” I will say that you probably should donate, and you probably will after you watch it, but only because you really want to. I donated, so you guys should all join me!
FInal Verdict-This documentary was just amazing. It is very well done and moving to watch. Be prepared to fall in love with all the kids, Hilde, and Chris.