Film of the Week: A Tiny Ripple of Hope

Posted by Greg on Feb 15, 2021 in Movies |

A Tiny Ripple of Hope Online Poster

This past weekend one of our favorite film festivals kicked off its 27th installment: Slamdance. While overshadowed by the more ballyhooed Sundance, this Park City-based festival showcases promising filmmakers long before they become household names. To date the film’s screenplay competition has introduced the likes of Marc Forster (“Loungers), Rian Johnson (“Evil Demon Global from Hell!), Christopher Nolan (“Following) , Bong Joon-Ho (“Barking Dogs Never Bite”) and the late Lynn Shelton (“We Go Way Back”) to name a few. The documentary portion of the festival has introduced the likes of “The Real Dirt on Farmer John” (2005) and more recently “The Art of the Prank” (2015) and “Kifaru” (2020).

One film we’re rooting for harder than most in this year’s competition is Jason Polevoi’s “A Tiny Ripple of Hope.” The 85-minute doc is a mesmerizing portrait of Chicago community organizer and nonprofit activist Jahmal Cole, whose organization My Block, My Hood, My City works to positively impact teenagers in Chicago’s South and West sides. If that sounds compelling just wait until you see the first few frames. Riveting, inspiring and deeply felt “A Tiny Ripple of Hope” marks the arrival of two magnetic people: an auspicious and fiercely talented filmmaker and a community organizer whose charisma will knock you off your feet.

For those unaware of who Cole is, he’s a wide-eyed and full-hearted visionary who has been featured on the likes of the Kelly Clarkson Show, the Today Show and Live with Kelly + Ryan. He’s also been lauded by the Obama Foundation, Chicago Magazine, Crain’s and the American Red Cross. “A Tiny Ripple of Hope” however bypasses those accolades and dials down on Cole’s selflessness, passion, charisma and vision in a way that is wholly engrossing. Polevoi pulls no punches and gives viewers unfettered access to the struggles, the dangers and the harsh reality that is being a teenager in some of Chicago’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods. Offset against that backdrop is Cole at his saintly best. Whether he’s paying a students’ cell phone bill or taking them on a field trip to the University of Notre Dame his vision is to inspire students to look beyond the blight and the breakdown and focus more on promise and potential.

Drawing on more than 150 hours of footage and unpacking three years of access Polevoi and his crew focus mostly on Cole’s influence on the lives of students in 2018, namely twin sisters’ Dimetriana and Dominetrius Chambers and high-achieving honors student Deontae Lewis. Interspersed with vignettes of their adolescence is a piercing and unflinching portrayal of poverty, opportunity and an unwavering passion for the American Dream. Watching Cole at work is to watch a whirling dervish of action and impact, a man dedicated to positivity and change. Initially funded by t-shirt and hoodie sales, the documentary slowly unpacks the rise and reach of My Block, My Hood, My City and the taxing toll it takes on his personal life. Audacious, unwavering and dynamically awe-inspiring “A Tiny Ripple of Hope” is the kind of film that will make you stand up and cheer long after the final frame.


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