Mad Hot Ballroom Marilyn Agrelo

Following the success of 2002's Spellbound, an endearing yet cutthroat depiction of American spelling bees told through the eyes of eight teenagers, comes this documentary that focuses on another wildly entertaining scholastic activity: ballroom dancing. Set in New York City, Agrelo's film trains its sight on fourth and fifth graders from three different neighbourhoods (Tribeca, Washington Heights and Bensonhurst) who are competing in a cross-city dance competition. Covering a ten-week span in which the students are introduced to the different styles of dance (meringue, tango, swing and rumba), the film explores the dynamics between the different races, classes and best of all, sexes of the children. Priceless conversations are captured on camera with the girls discussing the boys they like and vice versa, as well as certain social issues, such as those who can't dance because of their religion and gay marriage — a topic that is often dodged in favour of SpongeBob or the Yankees by most ten year olds. The secondary stars are the teachers, who are no less entertaining. Their dedication to bringing such pleasure to the lives of some of these disadvantaged children is commended and displayed throughout the various displays of emotions: frustrated yelling, confident cheers and tears of joy and disappointment. The competition will also keep you on your toes, featuring all three schools in the quarterfinals, with one moving on to the semis and finals. The heartbreak of losing is devastating to watch, as these kids are filled with sadness, regret and confusion. However, the triumphant moments make you feel like you're there cheering them on. (Paramount)