So it seems that Samantha Buck knew what she was doing when she titled her documentary Best Kept Secret. The film has scored a perfect 100 rating on Metacritic, something that's pretty impressive, seeing as how Metacritic is more picky when it comes to reviews than are websites with similar aims, like Rotten Tomatoes.
Now, Secret is up against 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station for the Gotham Audience Award and its chances are good at winning, seeing as how it is the only 2013 release to get such a rating from Metacritic. Fans of the films can cast their votes up until Sunday, November 24, 2013.
Buck’s documentary was made for less than $400,000 and follows Janet Mino, a special ed teacher working in New Jersey, over a period of 18 months. Mino works with children who have special needs as a result of learning disabilities, such as autism. Mino’s job is essentially to help the children become self-supporting upon graduating from the public school system so that they can take care of themselves once they're out.
Buck was encouraged to make the documentary when, while attending film festivals, she noticed that a majority of the autism-related documentaries out there were not aimed at the everyman and instead covered families that were from more affluent backgrounds and who could afford private care for their children. Buck decided to investigate at the public school level, and what she found was that kids who were diagnosed in the '90s were now coming up on graduation and were not being appropriately guided as to where to go next. Enter Janet Mino.
Now, here's the really awesome part if you're a fan of Kevin Smith. You know his podcast, “Smodcast,” the one he does with producer-buddy Scott Mosier? Well, Mosier is actually the executive producer of this documentary. Mosier has produced Smith's films for the better part of the past two decades so he knows his stuff, and he's spent a lot of time in New Jersey (the same location as the school in the documentary) due to his work on Smith's movies (Smith is a New Jersey native).
Mosier actually found out about Best Kept Secret from actress Elizabeth Banks when he worked with her on Smith's film Zack and Miri Make a Porno. (If you've never seen it, you should check it out. It has a sweet romantic plot at its heart, which is something you'd probably never expect from the title. Plus, it's a Kevin Smith movie, so it's hysterical.) Once Mosier got wind of the story Buck was telling, he was in. The fact that it was impressively shot, according to Mosier, didn't hurt either.
Best Kept Secret first aired on the Emmy Award-winning documentary series POV on PBS, which now makes Best Kept Secret a contender for an Emmy and even possibly an Oscar.
Buck's goal in making this film was to inspire an emotional connection between the viewing audience and the children in the film. Buck wanted to get people talking and encourage awareness, and she is psyched that U.S. Senators like Cory Booker and New Jersey's own Robert Menendez have put their support behind the film - they were of a small group that hosted a Congressional Screening of the film earlier this month.
Best Kept Secret is available now on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, amongst other digital viewing sites.