The Bad Kids


The Bad Kids (2016)


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Located in an impoverished Mojave Desert community, Black Rock Continuation High School is one of California's alternative schools for students at risk of dropping out. Every student here has fallen so far behind in credits that they have no hope of earning a diploma at a traditional high school. Black Rock is their last chance. THE BAD KIDS is an observational documentary that chronicles one extraordinary principal's mission to realize the potential of these students whom the system has deemed lost causes. Employing a verité approach during a year at the school, the film follows Principal Vonda Viland as she coaches three at-risk teens--a new father who can't support his family, a young woman grappling with sexual abuse, and an angry young man from an unstable home--through the traumas and obstacles that rob them of their spirit and threaten their goal of a high school diploma.

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Critic Reviews for The Bad Kids

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (6)

Desert flowers can be hard to spot, but are often distinctly beautiful, and The Bad Kids has them in focus.

Dec 22, 2016 | Full Review…

An insightful, affecting film that casts sympathetic light on a neglected educational sector.

Dec 20, 2016 | Full Review…

Bolstered by a confident fly-on-the-wall aesthetic and a suitably somber score by Michael Jacaszek, Fulton and Pepe locate both heartbreak and hope in their intertwined tales of people fighting to gain control of their (and others') lives.

Dec 20, 2016 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Mounted in a serviceable but undistinguished verité manner that eschews talking heads, explanatory titles and other means of conveying information.

Dec 16, 2016 | Rating: 2.5 | Full Review…

The vérité approach in "The Bad Kids" gives viewers insight into a timely issue by literally putting a face on it.

Dec 15, 2016 | Full Review…

One of the major points The Bad Kids makes is that most "problem students" have common struggles that could be managed with the individualized attention that big public high schools can't provide.

Dec 15, 2016 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
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