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Review: Bronx middle schoolers practice better nutrition in documentary 'The Health of Hope'

Review: Bronx middle schoolers practice better nutrition in documentary 'The Health of Hope'
New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio with a student in the documentary "The Health of Hope." (Indie Rights)

More likely to be viewed in classrooms than theaters, “The Health of Hope” plays like an entertaining, hour-long public service announcement. Produced by both the American Heart Assn. and the students of a Bronx middle school, the documentary lacks the polish of films made by a more experienced team; however, its endearing cast of students and teachers largely make up for its flaws.

The students at Middle School 223 in Mott Haven are frank about the crime and poverty rampant in their Bronx neighborhood, from bullet holes in the Papa John’s window to the casual crushing of cockroaches in the school’s halls. But the kids, their parents and their teachers work to change the state of the school, starting with the meals offered in the cafeteria, with far-ranging results.

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The documentary points toward the relationship between what students eat and how they learn, with measurable changes when their daytime diet improves. “The Health of Hope” is, predictably, a story of hope, but it doesn’t do much to reveal how the students of M.S. 223 actually improved their school in ways that other places could replicate. But director (and M.S. 223 teacher) Sai Varadan still engages the audience, thanks largely to the vibrant energy of the tweens and teens at its heart.

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‘The Health of Hope’

Not rated

Running time: 51 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood

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