"Faith, Sacrifice, Hard Work, and Perseverance Breed Success"
What You Need To Know:
STEP is a wonderful, inspiring documentary, though its structure could be tighter. The movie also has some brief foul language. Happily, however, STEP has a strong Christian, moral worldview that teaches many valuable lessons. It even validates strong pro-capitalist values, including hard work and perseverance. The positive lessons in STEP are mitigated by some topical politically correct, false leftist elements regarding people’s relationship with the police in the inner city. Caution for older children is advised.
(CC, BB, CapCap, Ro, PCPC, So, AP, RH, L, V, S, M,) Strong Christian, moral worldview overall with references to God’s grace, strength, and guidance, several depictions of prayer (including one where the most religious people in the movie, a mother and daughter, prayer before graduation), lyrics of songs both sung by the students and played underneath the action as part of the soundtrack, footage of a worship service lauding God, footage of people singing how great God is, teamwork and building people up rather than tearing them down is supported, and positive depictions of some families where it becomes clear that families with supportive parents are more likely to have successful children, with strong pro-capitalist values of hard work and perseverance in pursuing personal goals and building a stronger community are employed by people in a poverty-stricken area of Baltimore, hard work and the fruit of applying such values is depicted and rewarded, but mixed with some Romantic, politically correct, socialist, liberal/leftist, revisionist history values about the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore such as the coach of an African-American dance team tells her team that the police “murdered” Freddie Gray, but she offers no evidence and has no evidence for her claim, and (indeed) evidence presented in the actual court cases against the six police officers involved in Freddie’s arrest and transportation to police headquarters indicates that it was an accident and perhaps even accidentally self-inflicted, one of the dance routines in the middle of the movie uses the discredited and historically false leftist narrative of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri that a criminal had told the policeman who shot him, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” but that also was proven to be a lie, and witnesses actually reported that the criminal was starting to charge the officer again with the probable intent of trying to take the officer’s gun again, but it’s clear from the rest of the movie (including the ending) that Christian, moral and capitalist values work better than the emotional leftist politics of envy, false outrage and lies; four obscenities (including a couple “s” words and “d” and “h” words), one strong profanity using Christ, four light profanities, and one appeal to Jesus that said like a profanity but doesn’t appear to be; a montage of news footage from the Baltimore riots (including looting and vandalism) upon the news about the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, but the rioters come off as one of the bad things the African American community in Baltimore have to deal with and try to overcome; no sex scenes, but some high school girls on dance team have boyfriends, and a mother warns her daughter and other girls about engaging in sex outside of marriage and having a baby out of wedlock; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs; and, one high school girl becomes resentful of two other girls, who work hard to get much better grades while she’s slipping behind again, and the other girls get angry about the girl’s attitude, but their coach chastises them to build each other up and not tear each other apart, and mother promises daughter she’ll show up at a personal conference about her daughter’s college goals, but she doesn’t, however, she does show up at a second conference .
STEP is a documentary, wherein the harsh conditions of the inner city can’t dash the hopes instilled in the students via step dancing at an all-girls school in Baltimore. Faced with poverty and other obstacles, each student of the step team must learn the larger lessons that go beyond dancing: lessons about faith, sacrifice, hard work, and overcoming disappointment. There is a form of step dancing among white folks in the Appalachian mountains (sometimes called “clogging”), but step dancing in the context of this movie is an African-American form where the dancer’s entire body is used as a percussive instrument, often combined with hand claps and spoken words.
The movie follows three main students and their families throughout their senior year of high school in 2015. It’s the first graduating class of the Leadership School for Young Women, a charter school in Baltimore. The movie chronicles the highs and lows of the stress present in the decisions a senior in high school must make. With each decision, the weight of the future bears down on the girls, presenting them with the challenge to pursue their passion and struggle to turn their dreams into reality. The movie focuses on each girl’s attempt to go to college, including finding enough scholarship money.
The filmmakers spend the school year following the trials and tribulations of the three girls and the whole dance team. One of the girls struggles with her grades. Another one of the girls, the valedictorian of the whole senior class, wants to go to a prestigious, expensive school, but she needs a full scholarship to do that. The third girl also has high grades, but she needs money to be able to go to any college, not just a prestigious one.
At the heart of this story is the struggle to break the cycle of poverty. For almost all the families, each student fights to become their family’s first generation to go to college. They all have an immense desire to increase their station in life in order to avoid the struggle of their parents and, in the process, lift their family out of the despair and hardship of poverty.
The movie also focuses on the struggles to the step team to win a competition toward the end of the year. The team has never placed in the competition through its six years of existence, but the coach and the students want to take one of the top three spots, which include some prize money. Will the team be able to reach its own goals?
STEP is a wonderful, inspiring documentary, though its structure could be a bit tighter. The movie also runs a full 123 minutes, which is a little long for a documentary. Perhaps, the focus on both the team itself and the three girls trying to get into college was too much. Still, the movie delivers all the emotion and suspense that its topic deserves.
Best of all, the movie has a strong Christian, moral worldview. The families of two of the three girls are strong people of faith. For example, one of the three families is seen honoring God during a worship service in church. Also, there’s a scene of the mother of a second girl praying with her daughter. At another point, the dance team is shown holding hands in a group prayer.
STEP also teaches strong, positive moral values.
For example, it becomes clear that having supportive parents is essential to the success a young person may have in life. Thus, the movie supports a strong family life. (Two of the three girls have supportive stepfathers.) It also becomes clear by the end of the movie that not only faith and family are important to success, but so also are hard work, courage and perseverance. This aspect of the movie seems to support a strong pro-capitalist worldview.
Despite its pro-capitalist elements, STEP has several scenes that seem to reflect a Romantic, politically correct, socialist, and leftist viewpoint. For example, the movie takes place partly during all the news about a black man named Freddie Gray, who died during police custody while being driven in a police van to a police precinct for his arrest booking. In one scene near the beginning of the school year, the dance team’s female coach tells the team that the police “murdered” Freddie Gray. Of course, later, during the court cases of the six police officers involved in the incident, it became clear that Freddie’s death was most likely just a terrible accident. Thus, the coach was not making a statement of fact but spreading a lie. Also, the dance team does a routine where they mimic an alleged incident in Missouri, wherein an alleged criminal was said to have told a police officer, “Hands up. Don’t shoot!” before he was shot dead. This too has turned out to be false. Witnesses to the Missouri incident reported during the police officer’s trial that the alleged criminal never said any such thing. In fact, they reported that the criminal was starting to charge the officer with the probable intent of trying to take the officer’s gun again.
So, the people depicted in STEP, including the dance team’s coach, have bought into the false liberal/leftist narrative about police in the United States targeting black people because of their skin color. Federal statistics show, however, that, in actuality, a higher proportion of white males are shot by police, when you factor in the high level of crime in the inner cities of places like Baltimore, or Chicago.
Ironically, the movie’s second half clearly shows that it is Christian, moral, pro-family, and even capitalist values that help the three girls in the movie attain their goals. It’s also clear that working hard together and supporting one another is what helps the dance team itself succeed at the end. Hopefully, the positive messages in STEP won’t be obscured by the politically correct, false messages that crop up a few times. MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children because of those messages and some brief foul language.