IFFBoston is never without films that bring an audience to tears. “Best Kept Secret,” which had its world premiere at the festival, is one of those films: it tells the moving story of a selfless, heroic teacher, out to give the best possible quality of life to her autistic and special needs students as they age out of the system and enter the world.
Janet Mino is a teacher at JFK School in Newark, New Jersey, who works with autistic kids who have difficulties with verbal and written communications. Her goal is to recognize each student’s needs and work with that student to help give them a higher quality of life after they leave the school system. The documentary is based around the story of a select group of students, each with different issues and at different places with their communicative abilities.
Mino is positive and motivated, cheering the students on and clearly understanding how each individual needs to be approached. We follow Mino as she visits one of her former students at their current work site – when she finds he’s not being mentally stimulated, you can see the frustration in her eyes. Her colleague and school principal try to put things in perspective for her, but Mino won’t have any of it – she sees something special in all her kids, and she hates to see those strengths wasted. Mino is humble and selfless, it’s clear in this moving documentary that she puts her students first.
“Best Kept Secret” portrays an amazing educator and highlights some of the struggles autisitc individuals face as they age out of the system. It’s an eye-opening look at a system that needs a lot of attention and reform, as well as a heart-warming and inspirational story.