Synopsis by Mark Deming
This documentary takes an in-depth look at the work of Tim Rollins, an educator working in the South Bronx, whose "Kids of Survival" program takes a two-pronged approach toward reaching educationally-challenged and at-risk students. Rollins simultaneously encourages his students to read and gives them a much-needed means of personal expression by assigning them projects in which they create murals based on the narratives of such literary classics as The Scarlet Letter and The Red Badge of Courage. Rollins' program is criticized by some as Eurocentric and culturally irrelevant for the Black and Hispanic students he's trying to reach, the art is not always well-received by critics, and some of his students still succumb to the dangers of life on the streets, but Rollins fierce commitment to his students and determination to teach them both the expressive joys and the personal disciplines of art are unarguable. Kids of Survival: The Art and Life of Tim Rollins & K.O.S. won a special award from the National Educational Media Network's Film Festival in 1999.