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Review of KLING Directed by Demetrius Antwoin Matthews

It is said that a great teacher can change the life of a child forever. But some rare teachers go out of their way to affect and improve several lives at once. The documentary “Kling” is based on such a teacher whose students are grateful to have had him as a teacher for 3 years of their lives, 30 years after he taught them. The film is made by one of these students who is an entrepreneur turned filmmaker, Demetrius Matthews. As the students come together to pay their respect and gratitude to their teacher, Thomas Kling in this film, we cannot help but become emotional along with them.

Thomas Kling came to teach at a Chicago Public School in the West Side of Chicago during the mid-1980s when racism and the drug and crack epidemic were rampant in those parts. As a young man laden with the guilt of white privilege, Kling took it upon himself to truly educate this batch of 35 young black boys, going far beyond the school curriculum. And for doing that, he takes all the measures he feels necessary. From buying books for his students from his pocket to teaching them literary greats and college curriculum at such a young age, the dedicated teacher did not leave any stone unturned. 30 years later, as his successful students come together to pay their respects to their favorite teacher, we see how one person can change the fates of several people and improve their lives.

Throughout the documentary, we see Demetrius and several of Kling’s other students mention their career advancements in multiple fields. The interviews of the director with Mr. Kling elucidate the reasons why all these pupils are indebted for their success to their Grade School teacher, who did not let them get lost in the vortex of racism and the drug epidemic. As a result of his long, hard work of 3 years with these same students, he had helped them become respected citizens of their country. We see that an intense feeling of anti-racism pushed him to drive home the significance of real education among his colored students.

As an aged Thomas Kling talks to a young public educator, Mekita Matthews, he explains how working conditions of the teachers and the study curriculum need to change for any improvement to happen in the public education sector. The dedication and tenacity with which Kling taught his students, and the respect which he has for his vocation, were evident in this short chat in this thoughtful and well-made film. This inspiring dedication towards education had made such a huge impact on his young, black students, who are still indebted to his teachings, even after decades.

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