There is really only one word to describe Step: joyful. The entire 90 minutes is a celebration of life and all the highs and lows that come with it.
The film opens on the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death. Clips of the protests that ensued, including Twitter video and newscasts, are pieced together to help paint an image of Baltimore that exists in many people’s minds around the U.S. footage of the step team dancing in military camouflage is interspersed between protests. The images mesh together but still contrast each other, creating the visual representation of the tension felt throughout the film.
Step was Amanda Lipitz’s first time directing a feature-length film. The documentary follows three girls of the Lethal Ladies, the step team of Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The girls, Blessin, Tayla and Cori, are about to graduate in the founding class of BLSYW and leave the team that Blessin founded all the way back in sixth grade. From college applications to dance competitions, the film paints a full picture of these girls’ triumphs and hardships; you can’t help but grow to love them.
While all the girls have similar lives and things to deal with (boys, step practice, college applications, mother/daughter relationships), their obstacles tend to be different. All of them live in homes that struggle with money. For Cori, that means that she might be able get into her dream university, but can’t afford to attend. Tayla has to figure out how to balance school, social life and extracurriculars with the strictness of her mom. Blessin struggles in school and must find a way to balance her education and love of step at the same time.
The true power of the documentary is its honesty. The film is visually stunning, the characters become tangible, and the girls’ stories are told in such a way that the audience feels every loss and every victory. The audience at True/False broke into rounds of applause when the girls got into college. There were sounds of tissue packets and stifled sobs as the girls got ready for graduation day.
Step continues to impact people outside of the theater. Lipitz said in a Q&A after the film’s showing that with the money the documentary team received from FOX Searchlight after they purchased the rights, all the girls from the film will be receiving scholarships. In addition, some of the proceeds from the documentary’s time in theaters will be going to BLSYW.
Ultimately, the film presents another side to Baltimore. It tells the story of young, black women who strive to achieve success in their own way. No story looks the same. Each girl finds something that works for her, and that in the end is one of the most important messages. Your path may not follow everyone else’s, but it can lead you to a fulfilling life. Step is an uplifting film where these young women get to blaze trails for the girls and step teams that come next.
MOVE gives Step 5 out of 5 stars.