Friday, July 17, 2009

Heart of Stone

Opening this weekend: Heart of Stone, directed by Beth Toni Kruvant

Heart of Stone is Kruvant's first feature-length film; her first short documentary, Born in Buenos Aires, was about the Jewish community in Argentina during that country's economic collapse in 2001. Her second film, The Right to be Wrong, "chronicles an Israeli and Palestinian friendship that brought their 'peace party' from Israel to Kansas City."

Synopsis from the film's website:

Before 1960 Weequahic High School (WHS) was known as one of the top schools in America. By 2000 it was one of the most violent schools in the 12th most dangerous city in the country. Heart of Stone is the true story of WHS’ quest to return to its former glory.

When Ron Stone took over as principal in 2001, gangs ruled the school. Crime and shootings were commonplace and during his first month on the job he watched students engage in a mass brawl in every hallway.

Stone knew his work was cut out for him and devised an unconventional plan to realize his vision of turning the school around. He started by working with the gangs and establishing the school as a “non-violence” zone. He then partnered with the committed alumni association — comprised of mostly older Jewish and younger African American alums — to raise funds for programs and college scholarships that helped transform the gang culture of the school to one of discipline and performance. At Weequahic High School, where Philip Roth immortalized his Newark, NJ as a turn of the century Camelot, we watch an unusual tale unfold where past meets present and adolescents strive to overcome adversity.

The WHS experience is a model for other inner city schools to rejuvenate by reaching into their own past. Inner cities were once proud downtown districts with excellent education programs that graduated professionals who long ago moved to the suburbs. Heart of Stone shows how disparate groups can join together to give their old communities something they haven’t had for generations…a future.

Interviews with Weequahic students before the 2008 election:

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