Inspiring documentary shows high school students and their quests to get into college

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“Step” is an absorbing, involving documentary following the lives of a handful of high school seniors in Baltimore.

They’re members of the school’s step dancing team, but the movie is more about their lives outside of the dance floor than it is about the particulars of their dancing. (It’s not “Rize.”)

They’re students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, an academy dedicated to sending 100 percent of its students on to secondary education. Director Amanda Lipitz takes viewers home with the students and creates palpable drama around their quests to attend college following their senior year.

Some students, like the Johns Hopkins-bound Cori Grainger, don’t have any problem attaining that goal. (Her scholarship is another story.) Others, such as Blessin Giraldo, need all the help they can get, and “Step” details Giraldo’s struggles — including overcoming her disassociated mother and her dismal grade point average — to hit her goals.

The fiery, magnetic Giraldo becomes the de facto star of “Step,” along with her high school guidance counselor Paula Dofat, who puts her professionalism on the line in a tearful plea to one school’s admittance review board to just give Giraldo a chance. Dofat’s dedication is unwavering, and the commitment she shows is inspiring. (It truly does take a village.)

“Step” unfolds against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of Freddie Gray, which puts the film in a thoroughly modern context. But Lipitz doesn’t lay it on thick. “Step” knows when to step back and let its stars tell its story.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Step’

GRADE: B+

Rated PG for thematic elements and some language

Running time: 83 minutes

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