BY James Lindorf
Poverty has a way of locking people into place. It can limit how much of the world we see and the potential we see in ourselves. Exploring beyond your block, experiencing different cultures and ways of life opens not only eyes but a world of possibilities. That idea is the driving force behind Jahmal Cole’s Chicago-based organization My Block, My Hood, My City (M3). Whether he is taking the kids to Chinatown, to Greektown, or as far away as South Bend, Indiana, Jahmal is building their appreciation of the world around them. Cole isn’t trying to drive the kids away from Chicago’s segregated South and West Sides; instead, he wants to show them that they and their city can be all they ever dreamed of with hard work. “A Tiny Ripple of Hope” makes its world premiere by being one of only eight documentaries chosen to play at the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival. Typically taking place in Park City, Utah, Slamdance is a virtual event this year, running now through February 25th.
“A Tiny Ripple of Hope” is an examination of the love, joy, and sacrifice in Cole’s life. The film follows Cole through the ups and downs of 2018. He is named a Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine, but he is almost the victim of a drive-by while out working the neighborhoods. Three of his students have career goals, college acceptance letters, and full scholarships, but the bank is trying to foreclose on his home. M3 is in more schools than ever before, but after a fight, he finds himself exiled to a hotel, wondering if his marriage is salvageable. Director Jason Polevoi captures all the delight and pain in Jahmal’s life while showcasing the charisma that has landed Cole as a feature story on shows like “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” “Today Show,” and “Live with Kelly & Ryan.”
Cole is the beating heart of his community; his love for the city and its people is boundless. Cole’s joy is infinite every time one of his kids announces they improved their grades or are going to college. To make his dream a reality, Cole is willing to sacrifice time with his family, home, and safety. He and Polevoi make you feel and believe every moment. You are rooting for “his” kids, and you are rooting for his organization because you are rooting for him. He has the emotion and the presence, and with a little more practice, he could be the kind of speaker that ends up in the boardroom or the Whitehouse.
“A Tiny Ripple of Hope” is a powerful and motivating documentary. It is unobtrusive in classic Cinéma vérité style, letting the camera and the subject tell the story. It is clear why Polevoi has won multiple local Emmy Awards for his work on WGN and why Cole is the founder and CEO of Chicago’s fastest-growing social impact organization.
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