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Heart of Stone

A gutsy Newark high school principal's efforts to stave off gang violence and boost student morale produce results in Beth Toni Kruvant's heartfelt if erratic documentary, "Heart of Stone." The setting is the city's once famed Weequahic High, known for fostering more Ph.D.s than any other American high school from the 1930s-'50s, which makes this chronicle poignant and illustrates how African-Americans and Jewish alum help each other turn the school in a new, safer direction.

With:
With: Ron Stone, Rayvon Lisbon, Sharif Patterson, Hal Braff, Richie Roberts, Bashir Akinyele, Philip Roth, Al Attles, Cory Booker.

A gutsy Newark high school principal’s efforts to stave off gang violence and boost student morale produce results in Beth Toni Kruvant’s heartfelt if erratic documentary, “Heart of Stone.” The setting is the city’s once famed Weequahic High, known for fostering more Ph.D.s than any other American high school from the 1930s-’50s, which makes this chronicle poignant and illustrates how African-Americans and Jewish alum help each other turn the school in a new, safer direction. A fine-tuned cut should attract tube buyers worldwide, with doc-based fests beckoning. Pic won the audience award in Slamdance’s documentary competition.

Principal Ron Stone is viewed as willing to meet with Crips leader Rayvon Lisbon and local Bloods topper Sharif Patterson — something frowned upon by the Newark Police Dept. — and commands their respect, as well as that of other students, with a combination of fatherly concern and tough love. Neighborhood shift from middle-class Jewish to poor black is a familiar story, but former Jewish students’ drive to help Stone and their school is a genuine case of pride in action. Upbeat ending is a winner.

Heart of Stone

Production: A Good Footage Prods. presentation. Produced by Beth Toni Kruvant. Executive producers, Paul Bartick, Anand Kamalakar. Directed by Beth Toni Kruvant.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), David Harges, Scott Schelley; editor, Anand Kamalakar; music, Ben Decter. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 2009. (In Slamdance Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Ron Stone, Rayvon Lisbon, Sharif Patterson, Hal Braff, Richie Roberts, Bashir Akinyele, Philip Roth, Al Attles, Cory Booker.

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