Read what critics and journalists have to say about Best Kept Secret, the POV film that will be airing tonight on PBS (Check local listings). It will be streaming for free on the POV website from Tuesday, September 24 to Monday, October 7, 2013.
At a public school in Newark, N.J., the staff answers the phone by saying, “You’ve reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark’s best-kept secret.” JFK provides an exceptional environment for students with special-education needs. In Best Kept Secret, Janet Mino, who has taught a class of young men for four years, is on an urgent mission. She races against the clock as graduation approaches for her severely autistic minority students. Once they graduate and leave the security of this nurturing place, their options for living independently will be few. Mino must help them find the means to support themselves before they “age out” of the system.
“The film’s director, Samantha Buck, demonstrates a sensitivity comparable to that of Frederick Wiseman. . . . Best Kept Secret is an exemplary documentary: It spotlights an important issue yet never seeks to squeeze the truth into an easily digestible narrative frame. Instead it expands its storytelling to the boundaries of messy, joyful and painful reality. NYT Critics’ Pick.”
— Miriam Bale, The New York Times
“As Samantha Buck’s moving documentary makes clear, the secret weapon at the public school for special-needs students is Janet Mino, an inspirational teacher with limitless patience and indefatigable enthusiasm. . . . [The film] inserts the viewer into the overwhelming experience of teaching, parenting, even being an underprivileged young adult with autism.”
— Annlee Ellingson, Los Angeles Times
“Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept. . . . Samantha Buck’s documentary smartly sits back and watches as Mino works away. Apart from a few, briskly factual titles, there are no editorial intrusions here—no yammering experts, no pontificating activists, no sappy sentimental music. Just these kids, and the people who love them. . . . A haunting film.”
— Steve Whitty, The Star-Ledger
“At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Best Kept Secret . . . engrosses even as it sheds much-needed light on its important issue. . . . Not all of Mino’s efforts end happily. But the mere fact that such dedicated and indomitable teachers exist provides ample reason for hope.”
— Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
“Hugely inspiring . . . thanks to Janet Mino. She’s one of the cinematic heroines of the year.”
— Ernest Hardy, LA Weekly / Village Voice
“A pressing issue in the U.S. . . . If you think managing your teenager’s transition from high school to college or a job is hard, consider the challenge for parents and students with autism.”
— Michel Martin, Tell Me More, NPR
“The film presents, in a very honest way, the options that are out there. . . . Watching the documentary, I felt a flood of emotions—hope, joy, worry, despair. . . . Seeing Janet work with her students is so gripping, so moving.”
— Andrew Meyer, WBGO Journal, WBGO Radio, Newark, N.J.
“As uplifting a documentary as you are likely to see this year. . . . A magnificent tapestry of touching relationships. . . . When scientists figure out how to clone humans, they ought to start with Janet Mino.”
— Kam Williams, syndicated film critic