Once-in-a-blue-moon a documentary film strikes so deeply that I am at a want for the usual superlatives reviewers use. So, for Love Them First I simply go with the word ‘superlative.’
The film covers a year in the life of an elementary school in north Minneapolis, Minnesota. A part of Lucy Craft Laney at Cleveland Park Community School, Lucy Laney Elementary serves a student population which is 90% Black, and 90% living in impoverished circumstances. The overarching issue this year is how to lift the school’s status which is at the bottom of the state’s list of underperforming schools list for two decades. Having seen this film, Lucy Craft Laney Elementary is anything but underperforming.
Our hero is principal Mauri Melander Friestleben. She passionately cares for her charges and staff, oversees the curriculum, fosters a compassionate spirit in support of her young students, all while facing the challenge to increase the school’s status. Love Them First is as much a profile and character study of Friestleben as it is an introduction to how well a compassionate and effective public school can lift the lives of the children.
Love Them First is one of the most remarkable and memorable documentaries I have ever seen. I hope all who read this review will see and experience the love in this film.
You can stream the film from its website or from Amazon.