What would happen if you took a group of middle-school boys from a tough, inner-city school district in Baltimore, and transplanted them to a boarding school in Kenya, in the middle of nowhere? That’s the question the Baraka program asked, and for seven years the program, funded by a private foundation, picked a group of boys from Baltimore public schools each year to enroll in the Baraka school. The boys accepted would get two years of free tuition, room and board in Kenya, in an environment where they had one-on-one attention from teachers for the first time in their young lives.
Filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing spent over three years chronicling the experience of four such boys: Devon, Montrey, and brothers Richard and Romesh - boys they came to think of as The Boys of Baraka. When I spoke with Rachel Grady on the phone for this interview, the thing that struck me most was the passion with which she spoke of these boys she set out to film, and ultimately befriended. The insight Grady has gained from working with the boys and their families, she says, has forever changed her perspective on life in our society, especially for poor kids growing up in the inner city.
(interview below the fold)