The titular secret is John F. Kennedy School in Newark, a public school for children with special education needs. The film follows one dedicated teacher, Janet Mino, as her class of young men with autism is about to graduate to an uncertain future.
The film’s director, Samantha Buck, demonstrates a sensitivity comparable to that of Frederick Wiseman in the dramatic ways the roving camera keys in on Ms. Mino’s reactions. While her students are unforgettable, Ms. Mino is the star, a protagonist with a luminous face that hides nothing as she reflects the audience’s complicated emotions.
The camera often stays on the students enmeshed in frustrating experiences longer than is comfortable. But because of that, it’s revelatory, challenging not only patience but also expectations of when a scene should resolve. “Best Kept Secret” is an exemplary documentary: It spotlights an important issue yet never seeks to squeeze the truth into an easily digestible narrative frame. Instead it expands its storytelling to the boundaries of messy, joyful and painful reality.
Best Kept Secret
NYT Critic’s Pick
WritersZeke Farrow, Samantha Buck, Francisco Bello
StarsAlyce Barnhardt, Carla Byrd, Robert Caspar, Johnson Green, Quran Key
Running Time1h 25m
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Last updated: Nov 2, 2017