Further proof that the AFI is a bunch of idiots.

On Sunday, while catching up on some ironing, I watched Mad Hot Ballroom. It was fabulous. I highly recommend it. Its very existence calls the whole “100 Years/100 Cheers” list into question. I understand that the criteria indicated that movies on that list should be fictional, but why should a fictionalized version of Seabiscuit or Erin Brokovich or even All the President’s Men (in any of these movies, events have probably been switched around or left out in order to make the story more dramatic) be more inspiring than an actual documentary about actual children? Manipulation is better than genuine feeling?

If you don’t know what Mad Hot Ballroom is, here’s where you can read a plot summary. Of course seeing the children work hard was inspiring, but more than that, you saw them gaining confidence, you saw them (as one of the teachers said) “becoming ladies and gentlemen,” and you saw them learning about winning and losing. You saw the arts working, getting through to these kids. You saw excellent teachers doing their best to keep kids off the streets. And along with those teachers, you want to believe that this program will make a difference in some of their lives.

I think my favorite part was at the end, at the final competition, when the kids were dancing their hearts out. There was a judge with very long hair, and she was grinning her face off the entire time. She enjoyed every second of what she was doing, and when I turned off the movie, I am pretty sure the expression on my face mirrored hers.

Fictionalized stories are great. I love fiction. But that doesn’t mean we should forget the power of a true story, one in which real people work hard and overcome obstacles and maybe even let it change their lives.

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