Based upon a 2010 stage musical written by youths in foster care, Know How tells the interconnected stories of five youth failed by the people and institutions supposed to protect them. Forced to deal with drugs, crime, violence, and home instability with little or no supports, these young people's stories come to life in this remarkable and heartbreaking musical that, let me stress it again, is written and performed by a cast of current and fomrer foster youth.
Addie (Niquana Clark) struggles to graduate from high school while her best friend, Marie (Ebonee Simpson), loses her grandmother.
Megan (Claribelle Pagan) copes with being taken from her abusive family and faces the incredibly harsh reality of living in a residential treatment center.
Eva (Gabrielle Garcia) tries to be mother to her sister while their father falls deeper into crack addiction.
Austin (Gilbert Howard), pressured by his brother, falls into a life of crime while living on the street with his brother with the two struggling to even feed themselves.
Directed and edited by Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza, Know How is a gritty, honest and unforgettable musical that sort of feels like Rent meets Precious. It's the kind of film that looks and feels raw, maybe even a little unpolished, just like the lives these young people are living. It's a powerful film that demands reflection, contemplation, and may even serve as a call to action knowing that these kids are a small sampling of those forced to lives just like this.
The film is borne out of the work of New York-based The Possibility Project, a non-profit that brought teens together to write and perform an original musical based on their life experiences in an effort to help them move past the negativity of their lives and move toward something better. The film includes a few of the musical's original rap tunes - they range from fairly paint-by-numbers tunes to pretty darn stunning.
While it would be understandable if Know How dwelled on the negative, it doesn't. There comes a point for each of our youth when a decision must be made - Will they take control of their lives or will they allow their lives to be controlled by others? Will the systems designed to protect them ever work? Or will they just lead to more victimization?
Know How is a difficult film. It's a film that deamnds that we look at some of our most vulnerable youth and realize that they're suffering emotionally, physically, and sexually at the hands of those who should be protecting them. It's not easy to see, but it's absolutely essential to see. The film, while it certainly has its expected flaws given that so many involved are amateurs in the cinematic sense, is a remarkable and unforgettable achievement and a must see for anyone who cares about today's children and youth.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic