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Step | 2017 | PG | - 2.4.3

A documentary about three Baltimore high school seniors (Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger and Tayla Solomon) that struggle through poverty and prejudice, within a landscape of police brutality and the 2015 violent protests. They prepare to compete in a regional step dance contest, while they push hard to graduate and become the first members of their families to attend college. Also with Gari McIntyre and Paula Dofat. Directed by Amanda Lipitz. [1:23]

SEX/NUDITY 2 - A mother enters a class and says that her teen daughter is distracted because she has a "New little friend," and she angrily tells the girl in front of a teacher and other girls, "If you're still a virgin, that's the way you gonna [mild obscenity deleted] stay. Don't have no child out of wedlock like me." A woman tells her teenage daughter, "Boys have cooties. Stay away." We hear that an all-girls high school in Baltimore attempts to remove distractions and the risk of pregnancy from the lives of students. A coach reprimands a teen girl for calling another girl "the p-word."
 A high school dance team wears tights and yoga pants that hug the figures of many of the participants; half a dozen of the girls wear short-shorts. A woman wears a tight-fitting top with a scoop neckline, revealing significant cleavage. A brief close-up focuses on the clothed buttocks of two teen girls wearing yoga pants walking down a hallway. We see a photo of a woman at age 16, wearing a tank top and short-shorts as she holds her baby.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - Footage depicts a line of armored police officers wearing riot gear as one officer roughly shakes a woman on a street, as smoke clouds billow out of the windows of a business and many small fires burn in an urban area among demolished buildings at night; a voiceover speaks of violent protests and the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police.
 Teen girls cry and mourn the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and a woman says that she lives on the street where he died. At a memorial to Freddie Gray, a woman tells teen girls, "African-American women are at the bottom of the barrel and we still have to fight for our rights." In a classroom, a woman tells teen girls about bigots in the White Citizens Council and the KKK enforcing segregation in the past. In step dance practice, teen girls practice walking with raised hands as if to police guns pointing at them and chanting, "Hands up! Don't shoot! Hands up! Don't shoot!" A woman shouts to a large group of step team members that they need to have the powerful attitude of the ugliest woman in the world who is still going to force people to watch her perform.
 Nineteen teen girls loudly stomp, thigh-slap, and chant; they raise their hands as if the police have pointed guns at them, walk in a design, and chant loudly several times, "Don't shoot! Don't shoot! I'm Black and I'm proud"; a spotlight focuses on one girl chanting and stomping loudly, "You mess with my sister, you mess with me!" and she falls backwards hard onto the stage; the dancers make a formation with fists in the air and two girls hold up signs reading "Black Lives Matter."
 An older woman says that she and her husband do not get along when they are in the same house, so they remain apart, and she says that she once had a blackout and heard her daughters shouting, "No Mom, don't kill him!" and she also says that she has been depressed since her teenage years; several scenes show that she does not show up to important school meetings for her teen daughter, who writes a story about her father being Frankenstein. A table of teen girls and a woman argue mildly about people's attitudes. Teen girls discuss whether they would follow Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X and one girl says she would have a group of Black Panthers for protection, no matter what.
 A woman says that teen girls in her area have no food and sometimes no refrigerator to put it in. A teen girl cries at home because there is no food in the house and her 6-year-old nephew has nothing to eat. A young boy says that he stepped on glass and it hurts, but his foot shows no injury. A girl becomes angry and sad when the college she wants to go to is too expensive; she argues mildly with her boyfriend about the college's cost and its distance from home, she lets her grades drop and attacks another girl in step class, shouting, "I'm gonna break her!" A teen girl cries and tells an adult, "I see myself beating them up." A teen girl meets with her principal and cries over her grades. A teen girl receives a college rejection letter and tears stream down her cheeks. A counselor and a teen girl speak with two representatives from a college program and when the girl leaves, the counselor cries and begs for the school's help for the girl. A mother cries and says that she's scared at a meeting where she hears that college tuition for her daughter might be outrageous.
 A coach makes teen girls do the skier's sit stance against the wall for several seconds three or four times and the girls moan in pain, shaking their arms and legs afterwards. Several scenes feature clips of step dance competitions of teen girls and a one men's group; we hear and see loud stomping and chanting. A mother attends step dance practices and demonstrates loud stomping moves for fun; she is a corrections officer and we later see her put a bulletproof vest under her uniform shirt. A teen girl wears a Band Aid on her cheek.


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LANGUAGE 3 - 2 scatological terms, 1 anatomical term, 5 mild obscenities, name-calling (Frankenstein, monster, crazy, ridiculous, annoying), exclamations (boom), 12 religious exclamations (Jesus, Lord, God Has Blessed Me, etc.).


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SUBSTANCE USE - A photo depicts a man holding what may be a bottle of beer as he sits on a couch with his wife.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Racism, police brutality, violent protests, urban areas, at-risk youth, generational poverty, depression, untreated mental illness, starvation, crime, murder, domestic violence, Black Lives Matter, community, hard work, faith, focus, discipline, responsibility, accountability, channeling anger, redemption.

MESSAGE - An all-girls high school in urban Baltimore discovered the key to guiding their first senior class to 100% graduation and college attendance rates.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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