NXNE 2012: Once in a Lullaby: The PS22 Chorus Story – Documentary Review

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

Staten Island, NYC. Within the depths of this suburban borough lies Public School 22. An ordinary public school that boasts an extraordinary story about an interesting group of people: The PS22 Chorus. Composed of 60+ 5th graders, these mischievous 10-year-olds went from an auditorium-playing Chorus group, to an internet sensation to closing the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Their remarkable story is now brought to us on the big screen by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Kalafer.

It all started with Gregg Breinberg – an enthusiastic, energetic and passionate music teacher at Public School 22 – who began recording and posting all the chorus’ performances on YouTube. The videos went viral, captivating millions of people around the world. Celebrities from all over the United States flocked over to see these young kids perform. However, their biggest surprise came at their 11th Annual Winter Concert – December 16, 2010 – when Oscar Co-Host Anne Hathaway popped in after their performance to announce that they were going to close the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. You can only imagine how these kids felt at that very moment.

Kalafer documents the groups journey from the the moment they are chosen by the Academy till the very performance at the Kodak Theatre that would change their lives forever.  However, Kalafer has gone beyond the base story. He digs deeper into the very foundation of the Chorus, giving context to the story. What are these students all about? Are they truly passionate about music? What drives them forward? Kalafer manages to answer all these various questions by highlighting select members of the chorus – including teacher Gregg Breinberg – and providing their life story. You understand the dynamics of this chorus and the very forces that push them to become the energetic, talented group that they are.

The documentary is skillfully woven, bringing a great balance between story and emotion. Kalafer understands that he is documenting a story involving children but he lets emotions play and drama unfold. The reality of the situation is never underestimated. You are given the journey as it happens and are allowed to feel and understand every moment as the story progresses. From their adventure in Disney land, to the back-stage drama at the Kodak Theatre, the emotion is very real, all of which adds to the documentary experience.

The story itself is beautiful. You see children who have not even hit their teens but demonstrate such mind boggling maturity. They are willing to share their personal story, still keeping their emotions and spirits in check. Of course kids will be kids and they showcase endless amounts of mischief. However, when required, they demonstrate maturity and ability to understand, and Kalafer has done a brilliant job capturing that on screen.

Once in a Lullaby is a beautifully crafted, feel-good documentary that showcases the importance of honing & strengthening the inner talents that our children possess whilst also giving them the essential tools to never lose sight of their talent. More so, it showcases the importance of a great teacher and how that teacher can guide your kids to find the strength and power within themselves to achieve the impossible. This is a fantastic documentary, one that should be on everyone’s must-watch list! For more info on the documentary and scheduled screenings, visit their Facebook page here: Once in a Lullaby

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/39578585]