When Hilde Back sponsored a young, rural Kenyan student, she thought nothing of it. She certainly never expected to hear from him, but years later she does. Now a Harvard graduate and a Human Rights Lawyer for the United Nations, Chris Mburu decides to find the stranger that changed his life. Inspired by her generosity, he starts a scholarship program of his own and names it for his former benefactor and the top students in Mukubu primary school find themselves in the exact same situation as Chris once was. They are bright, but can't afford to pay school fees. With the creation of Chris' fund, these students have new hope, but with the program so small how many will qualify for a scholarship?
A Small Act is an Anglo African documentary about a Kenyan diplomat whose life was changed as a child when his education was sponsored by an unknown Swedish woman. As an adult Chris Mburu is a graduate of Nairobi University and Harvard Law, and now a human rights advocate.
In the present day diplomat Chris has decided to endorse his own secondary education scholarship, as in Kenya only Primary Education is free. This leads him to seek the identity of his sponsor, a Jewish woman who fled from the Nazi’s to Sweden after her parent’s death in 1940; Hilde Back. Subsequently Chris names his scholarship after his benefactor.
Three young Kenyan children now battle for the Hilde Back Education Fund.
The film is utterly heart breaking, as the stories of the impoverished children unfold before us. Filmed by UCLA graduate in African History Jennifer Arnold the film is sensitive and touching, without being accusatory or pleading as so many charitable documentaries can be. The film is not asking for donations but rather portraying an honest and gentle look at the huge differences a small act of kindness can make.
Hide’s own thoughts open the film, and echo down throughout the narrative; she, as with many charitable donators, wonders what difference their contributions are making. Whilst the film reveals the struggle of those in poverty to get access to their basic human rights in time of violent political conflict. Yet the film manages to balance the atrocities of such crimes with the spark of hope that comes from the tiny trickle of Hilde’s donation.
I challenge anyone not to cry.
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Melissa Orcine - Cinema Paradiso
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