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First Position Reviews

Trevor Johnston
Time Out
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Undeniably effective as drama, as we ponder the varying degrees of ambition and talent driving these young people to push their bodies beyond the limit in the hope of grasping a future in the spotlight.

Full Review Source: Time Out | Original Score: 3/5

April 10, 2013
Jennie Punter
Globe and Mail
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It does a great job developing its characters through its visuals - these are superphysical kids - and honing in on family dynamics.

Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Original Score: 3/4

July 19, 2012
Linda Barnard
Toronto Star
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If you have a yearning to feel awkward, inadequate and lazy, watching the whirling teenage (and preteen) talents in director Bess Kargman's First Position will do the trick.

Full Review Source: Toronto Star | Original Score: 3/4

July 19, 2012
Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
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When it's over, you won't remember so much about who won and who lost. Instead, what remains is the expression on a young dancer's face, reflected in a mirror: showing the joy of being in love with what you do.

Full Review Source: Seattle Times | Original Score: 3.5/4

May 24, 2012
Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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For someone (like me) who has never been to a ballet, the talent of these teens and tweens is a revelation.

Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Original Score: 3.5/4

May 18, 2012
Tom Long
Detroit News
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A number of the performances are plain stunning - Aran and Joan, in particular, seem born to move - and in many ways watching the movie is like watching a sporting event; there are winners and losers and favorites to cheer on.

Full Review Source: Detroit News | Original Score: B-

May 17, 2012
Amy Hitt
Washington Post
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It's an intense journey, and Kargman captures it all, down to the dancers' bloodied and bruised feet.

Full Review Source: Washington Post | Original Score: 3/4

May 11, 2012
Allan Ulrich
San Francisco Chronicle
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Yes, it is possible to create a gripping documentary about the ballet world without resorting to "Black Swan" melodramatics.

Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle | Original Score: 3/4

May 10, 2012
Jordan Levin
Miami Herald
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Child ballet dancer and former journalist Bess Kargman brings a dancer's passion and insight to her directorial debut, illuminating the addictive magic and fierce demands of a ballet dancer's life.

Full Review Source: Miami Herald | Original Score: 3/4

May 10, 2012
Ty Burr
Boston Globe
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Because its subjects are so driven and so talented, "First Position," which is about ballet, is more gripping than the norm.

Full Review Source: Boston Globe | Original Score: 3/4

May 10, 2012
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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It's in the quick audience-reaction shots of the young dancers' exultant parents and cringing private instructors that the movie finds its most nakedly human moments.

Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Original Score: 3/4

May 10, 2012
Ellen Dunkel
Philadelphia Inquirer
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The film shows the grueling work it takes for young dancers like Zamora to look effortless on stage, and First Position shows teachers who range from supportive to borderline abusive.

Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | Original Score: 3/4

May 10, 2012
David Edelstein
New York Magazine
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This is yet another competition doc in the unending legacy of Spellbound, but Kargman is light on her feet, and she has chosen to follow a fascinating group of kids preparing for the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix.

Full Review Source: New York Magazine

May 7, 2012
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
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Beneath the jetÚs and bleeding feet, First Position is about toughness of mind as much as visions of beauty. In one case it's about a transformation so profound as to be unfathomable.

Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal

May 5, 2012
Frank Scheck
Hollywood Reporter
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First Position overcomes its predictable elements thanks to the inherent visual drama of watching children strain their bodies to the limit in obsessive pursuit of their goals.

Full Review Source: Hollywood Reporter

May 4, 2012
Dana Stevens
Slate
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First Position is an unabashedly inspirational portrait of what even very young people can accomplish with discipline and dedication.

Full Review Source: Slate

May 4, 2012
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
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I've become weary of documentaries about winning prizes, but this one is special because the kids are. They are ardent and amazingly accomplished, but they are also... kids.

Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor | Original Score: A-

May 4, 2012
Farran Smith Nehme
New York Post
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[It] seems fresh in the way it respects both the art in ballet and the discipline it demands - even in childhood.

Full Review Source: New York Post | Original Score: 3/4

May 4, 2012
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
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An appealing, largely upbeat documentary about young ballet dancers duking it out, sometimes on point and in tulle, for top honors at the Youth America Grand Prix.

Full Review Source: New York Times | Original Score: 3.5/5

May 3, 2012
Linda Holmes
NPR
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It's a great introduction to the intriguing mix of parents - neurotic, loving, pressuring, calming - who raise great kids who do great things.

Full Review Source: NPR

May 3, 2012
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
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These performers are so young, so serious, so full of dreams and so hard on themselves that it is difficult not to be moved by their striving.

Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times | Original Score: 4/5

May 3, 2012
Joe Neumaier
New York Daily News
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Their devotion to their art is admirable, and the film gets under the skin, if never really in our blood.

Full Review Source: New York Daily News | Original Score: 3/5

May 3, 2012
Mary F. Pols
TIME Magazine
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At least half of these young dynamos and their families, all vying for coveted scholarships and spots in ballet companies, could brighten the most forlorn perspective on the state of the American dream.

Full Review Source: TIME Magazine

May 3, 2012
Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
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Each of [the] six young subjects vying for the Youth America Grand Prix (and the priceless award of a full scholarship to a top ballet school) is a wonder of self-imposed discipline in service to art.

Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly | Original Score: B+

May 2, 2012
Rex Reed
New York Observer
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It's a triumph, in more ways than one.

Full Review Source: New York Observer

May 2, 2012
Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out New York
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This material could have been assembled into a more creative and suspenseful narrative.

Full Review Source: Time Out New York | Original Score: 3/5

May 1, 2012
Nick Schager
Village Voice
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The result is a film that eschews in-depth insight in favor of easily digestible who's-going-to-win suspense...

Full Review Source: Village Voice

May 1, 2012
Alissa Simon
Variety
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Never putting a foot wrong, tyro helmer Bess Kargman's touching, enormously satisfying docu First Position follows six gifted ballet students from disparate social, regional, economic and ethnic backgrounds as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix.

Full Review Source: Variety

February 23, 2012
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