Best Kept Secret Documentary Review Essay

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

  • DirectorSamantha Buck

  • WritersZeke Farrow, Samantha Buck, Francisco Bello

  • StarsAlyce Barnhardt, Carla Byrd, Robert Caspar, Johnson Green, Quran Key

  • Running Time1h 25m

  • GenresDocumentary, Drama

  • Movie data powered by IMDb.com
    Last updated: Nov 2, 2017
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Summary:JFK High School, located in the midst of a run-down area in Newark, New Jersey, is a public school for all types of students with special education needs, ranging from those on the autism spectrum to those with multiple disabilities. Janet Mino has taught her class of young men with autism for four years. When they all graduate in theJFK High School, located in the midst of a run-down area in Newark, New Jersey, is a public school for all types of students with special education needs, ranging from those on the autism spectrum to those with multiple disabilities. Janet Mino has taught her class of young men with autism for four years. When they all graduate in the spring of 2012, they will leave the security of the public school system forever. Best Kept Secret follows Ms. Mino and her students over the year and a half before graduation. The clock is ticking to find them a place in the adult world â…Expand
Genre(s):Drama, Documentary
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