This inspiring, enthusiastic documentary, being released in selected theaters across the country, was honored earlier this year with an Academy Award nomination. It tells the story of Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras, a violinist and teacher who conducts a violin program for students in three elementary schools in East Harlem in New York City. Roberta appears often in the film and also does the narration. She first moved to New York City in 1980 and later set up a non-profit organization to teach violin to elementary age children in a group setting. The film follows her activities as a teacher in a recent year and shows her instructing several groups of children in a number of classroom scenes. It's clear that she has a passion for music and teaching, but she is also a strict disciplinarian. Enthusiastic comments from both students and parents associated with her program are featured. The children give some special performances including a fun, heartwarming school concert for their parents. Even more impressive, Roberta's students play The Star-Spangled Banner at the opening of a New York Knicks basketball game and later play some selections from Bach at a prestigious concert at New York's Carnegie Hall. Although SMALL WONDERS has the appearance of a low-budget documentary, it is well done and moves along at a brisk pace. It will particularly appeal to children and parents interested in music and to elementary school teachers.
The passion and dedication of Roberta is inspiring and she genuinely loves to work with children. At times, though, her strict discipline comes across as harsh, although she includes enough humor, compassion and encouragement in her teaching to win the love and respect of her students. Some scenes in which loving and admiring parents interact with their children are also touching. Also, heartwarming scenes are shown in Roberta's home where she and her two teenage sons play classical musical selections together. Only one incident mars the film's quality, an obscenity used in a causal comment by a young girl in the program. Overall the tone of SMALL WONDERS is refined and uplifting
Miramax Films, 18 E. 48th St., New York, NY 10017
Once (no f- or s-words)
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog:
Persons 8 years of age and above
Copyright Preview Family Movie Review (www.previeoOnline.org)