Some films are meant to make millions of dollars, and some are conceived with other goals in mind. With “Bilal’s Stand,” the story of a black Muslim teenager (Julian Gant) from Detroit and his uphill battle to convince his family that college is the right choice for his future, the project allowed writer-director Sultan Sharrief to empower local high school kids through hands-on filmmaking. If the result looks amateurish, that’s to be expected, though the pic’s success should be measured by the minor miracle of its existence (and subsequent Sundance selection) rather than the unevenness of its execution.
With its melodramatic turns and moralistic tone, “Bilal’s Stand” follows a routine formula while giving voice to a character rarely heard from in Hollywood. Surrounded by naysayers and underachievers, honor student Bilal takes up ice carving, hoping to earn a scholarship — a decision that upsets his family, who depend on him. Gant’s strong perf stands out amid the nonpro cast (to convey the character’s thoughts and dreams, Sharrief superimposes rudimentary cartoons throughout), and though production values are better than the average student film, a certain overall clumsiness gives its origins away.