UPDATE, May 18: First Position is now playing at the Clairidge in Montclair. Check showtimes here.
A film about young ballet dancers captivated young, old, men and women this morning at the Bellevue Theater. The documentary, directed by Bess Kargman, was a wonderful family-film addition at the Montclair Film Festival. Co-presented with Barista Kids, First Position was inspiring and broke down stereotypes of the ballet world. And that’s exactly what Bess Kargman intended it to do with her first film. She wanted for everyone to love this film, event those dragged their by their wives (like my husband)—especially those. “I kind of made this film for the haters.” She said in a Q&A after the film.
The film had its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was named the audience choice’s first runner up for Best Documentary. It also won the Jury Prize at the San Francisco Documentary Festival and the audience award at DOCNYC. And if the applause, gasps, and cheers of the Montclair audience is any indicator of its success, it surely was a favorite at this festival.
First Position brings the viewer into the world of seven ballet dancers, from ages 10 to 17. It shows their drive, passion and extreme dedication to the art form, while working towards the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest competition that awards full scholarships to top ballet schools. And while it does show the darker side of ballet—the extremely long hours, physical hardship on the body, loss of a normal childhood—this is not a “Black Swan” type of film. Kargman’s love of ballet, she danced as a child, and these kids shines through in this film. “I”m not a parent yet, so these kids are the closest thing I have to kids,” she explained beaming.
By the end of the film, you are connected to these kids and you watch with baited breath at the award announcements at the Youth America Grand Prix. Not everyone wins, as in life, but the dancers Kargman focuses on are very talented and all end up with something positive happening. When asked if she chose these seven kids from the beginning, Kargman said she did not, but subconsciously she ended up having twice as much footage of these seven than the others. But she said that all the dancers she filmed, made it in the end, even if the part was small.
An audience member asked if there would be a sequel, and Bess joked, “The sequel will be in 10 years and it will be called Second Position,” then added, “Between then and now I will do some not dance stuff to challenge myself.”
If you didn’t see the sold out film this morning, no worries. First Position was released in theaters yesterday, May 4 and will be coming to Montclair next week for a run.
The film kept my 4-and 8-year-old daughters captivated the entire 90 minutes. Enough said.