US, 2013, 85 min
A Newark, New Jersey high school teacher struggles to prepare her students with autism to survive in the brutal world that awaits them once they graduate.
“An exemplary documentary"
-New York Times (CRITICS' PICK)
New York Times
Best Kept Secret is an exemplary documentary: It spotlights an important issue yet never seeks to squeeze the truth into an easily digestible narrative frame. Instead it expands its storytelling to the boundaries of messy, joyful and painful reality.
[Inserts] the viewer into the overwhelming experience of teaching, parenting, even being an underprivileged young adult with autism.
La Weekly / The Village Voice
Deeply moving... thankfully unsentimental... inspiring. Samantha Buck's cinema-verite style engrosses even as it sheds much needed light on its important issue.
Newark Star Ledger
Apart from a few, briskly factual titles, there are no editorial intrusions here - no yammering experts, no pontificating activists, no sappy sentimental music.
Film Journal International
The wonderful work of one teacher, concerned with the adult future of autistic children, is spotlighted in this touching, funny and important documentary.
Eye For Film
This is one secret that deserves to be shouted about.
...The film packs an undeniable emotional punch, throwing a spotlight on characters one won't soon forget.
A magnificent tapestry of touching relationships more like mother and child than student-teacher. When scientists figure out how to clone humans, they ought to start with Janet Mino.
It's Just Movies
Best Kept Secret reveals Mino's passionate instructional strategies, her frustration with limited post-graduation opportunities and her attempts to make a change.
Washington Post Express
In and out of the classroom, Mino fights for her kids, first to teach them life skills, then to help ensure they don't spend that life neglected in a poorly funded state-run home.
Filmmakers Samantha Buck and Danielle DiGiacomo (both also worked on the 2009 documentary 21 BELOW, a portrait of middle-class struggles in Buffalo, N.Y.) tell their story through Mino, who is equal parts educator, cheerleader, counselor and mother-figure to the young men preparing to leave the nurturing world of JFK.
'They are people, director Buck said of Mino's students. If an audience can feel emotionally connected to Eric or Quran or a Robert, that might be an impetus to do something. It's a first step.'
Mino, with her wild laugh and intense extroversion, is a natural scene-stealer.
Samantha Buck's film...takes a next step, looking at what happens after school. Specifically, it shows what's happening as, for the first time in her 20 years of working with autistic spectrum children, Mino's entire class is graduating.