A Small Act

Can a single act of generosity change the course of a person’s life? Growing up in rural Kenya, Chris Mburu, like most of those around him, found poverty blocking his path to education, steering him instead toward coffee-picking at $1.50 a week. But his prospects changed suddenly when Hilde Back, a Jewish schoolteacher living in Sweden, anonymously contributed a few dollars a month to sponsor Chris’s education. The world opened: Unbeknownst to his benefactor, Chris went on to become a Harvard-educated human rights lawyer, determined to return to his village and pass on the gift of education to a new generation of promising, but desperately poor, Kenyan children. In Jennifer Arnold’s riveting and inspiring documentary, we are eyewitnesses to a living example of “paying it forward,” as we follow Chris’s efforts to honor his benefactor by providing scholarships in her name, and discover the friendship that has grown between Chris and the now elderly Hilde—a refugee from Hitler’s Germany who herself had been the recipient of anonymous kindnesses in her adopted country of Sweden. Equally affecting is the film’s portrait of three Kenyan schoolchildren trying to break the cycle of poverty, as their dreams of secondary education hinge on qualifying for the scholarships. Premiered at 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
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