June 26, 2011


A Small Act is a glimpse into the Kenyan education system and some of those who are trying to better it. The documentary focuses on Chris Mburu, a Kenyan who went on to study at Harvard and eventually work for the United Nations. Mburu, who was sponsored to attend secondary school by a Swedish woman named Hilde Back, founded his own foundation called the Hilde Back Education Fund. In addition to exploring Mburu’s life, the film also looks at three students competing for his award.

The film, while not really novel in any way, is enjoyable for what it is. However, it could have been a good half hour shorter while still accomplishing the same goal. What it did do particularly well was present a story about poverty in a way that did not point fingers at the viewer. Instead, it was a sweet story about how one mafn’s life was changed by one woman’s small act of generosity. It helped show that, despite how pessimistic one can become about all of the troubles that exist, small acts really can mean a great deal to others.  My review after the jump:

a-small-act-imageWhat made this film worth watching was how endearing all of the characters were. When Mburu finally meets Back, they develop a touching friendship. Back is an adorable, humble woman who survived the Holocaust. Mburu, who seems like a genuinely kind, friendly guy, becomes a kind of son to her. The three students in the film are also fun to watch. Their competitive friendships are relatable, though they all have deep personal struggles that make it exceedingly difficult to pursue their education.

Near the end of the film, political unrest in Kenya comes into play, helping make a point about the importance of education. Mburu stresses how it is easy to politically sway those who are ignorant, making it important to educate citizens. It all leads up to the announcement of the year’s Hilde Back Education Fund recipients, where Mburu and the students are present. The foundation can only sponsor a limited number of students who are chosen based on performance on the Kenyan standardized test as well as class standing and personal need.

A Small Act is drawn out and slow in parts, but it tells a good story. While it’s definitely worthwhile to read about the people and the foundation, the film isn’t going to be for everyone. Nevertheless, it is uplifting and leaves you feeling ready to help save the world.

Special Features:

The DVD includes a six minute video entitled Homecoming that takes place during the film’s first screening in the village in which it was filmed. It’s a cute reunion piece that catches up with everyone and is worth seeing for those who enjoyed the film.

The DVD also has deleted scenes, trailers, and information about the production company and filmmaker.




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