Rousing, inspirational documentaries do not necessarily go hand in hand as much as one might believe. Trying to inspire is often less than rousing. By the competition used as the suspenseful climax of Step, a documentary following a group of inner-city Baltimore high-school seniors, the audience will feel like such a stakeholder in the lives of these girls that cheers or tears will be hard to contain.
All of the girls are part of the first class to graduate from a public charter school, the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, and its step team, the Lethal Ladies of BLSYW. Blessin founded the school’s step team as a sixth grader. Since then, she has suffered personal setbacks that leave her scrambling to find a place for post-secondary education. Lucky Tayla has a very involved mother, Maisha, who works in corrections and comes to every step practice. Cori is brilliant and hoping to get a full scholarship that will allow her to attend her dream school, Johns Hopkins.
In a mere hour and a half, filmmaker Amanda Lipitz will have the audience caring like BLSYW’s college counselor, Paula Dofat. With the news flooded with violent images of Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray tragedy, and the Black Lives Matter movement viewed in two glaringly different lights, stories like those told in the sincerely stirring Step must be heard, both by those in similar situations and those whose lives bear no resemblance to the experiences of Blessin, Tayla and Cori.