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A Small Act -- Film Review

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U.S. Documentary Competition

PARK CITY -- In this age of massive bailouts to low-performing scoundrels, "A Small Act" is the moving story of a magnificent personal bailout.

It's the story of an impoverished boy in Kenya, Chris, whose life was transformed by the diligent beneficence of a woman in Sweden, Hilde Back. For years, Hilde selflessly sent a small check that paid off with spectacular human dividends. By contributing roughly $15 a month, she was able to finance Chris' education, ultimately enabling Chris to graduate from Harvard.

"A Small Act" is a precious and inspiring tale, and could garner an Audience Award here in the U.S. Documentary Competition category.

Filmmaker Jennifer Arnold gracefully and fluidly tells the uplifting story of Hilde Back and Chris Mburu. She weaves a comprehensive narrative, interlacing Hilde's spare life in Sweden with the horrifying poverty in Kenya. Her dramatic documentation of the desperate existence of Kenyan children who must pay to go to school, but are often too poor to attend, is heart wrenching.

Inter-cutting between Chris' adult life, where he works as a human-rights lawyer, with the stark poverty of rural Kenyan children, Arnold succinctly and touchingly charts what one small act of kindness can create.

While the story itself is transcendent by itself, Arnold's crew of filmmakers, including cinematographer Patti Lee and editors Carl Pfirman and Tyler Hubby have skillfully visualized and paced this splendid work.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production: HBO Documentary Films
Director: Jennifer Arnold
Producers: Jennifer Arnold, Patricia Lee, Jeffrey Soros
Executive producer: Joan Huang, Jeffrey Soros
Director of photography: Patricia Lee
Music: Joel Goodman
Editors: Carl Pfirman, Tyler Hubby
No rating, 90 minutes