Can’t-Miss Documentary: A Small Miracle

July 9, 2010 at 8:00 am , by

Can a small act of kindness really make a difference?  Yes, if you listen to the story of  Chris Mburu, the subject of the inspiring documentary, A Small Act, which premieres July 12 on HBO. Chris grew up in Kenya—with little hope for a future beyond coffee picking—until a Swedish pre-school teacher named Hilde Back stepped into his life. Hilde and Chris never met, but she sponsored his education, sending him a few dollars each month to pay for his school.  Thanks to Hilde, Chris went on to do great things: graduating from Harvard Law School and becoming a human rights activist.

To honor his “angel,” Chris started the Hilde Back Education Fund in 2003, so other bright yet disadvantaged Kenyan students could have a chance at a better life. The film not only shows the first meeting between Hilde and Chris, it also follows three gifted students—Kimani, a high spirited boy, Ruth, a shy yet quietly ambitious girl, and her beautiful yet brainy friend, Caroline, as they compete for the one Hilde Back scholarship that will determine their fate. The results are both uplifting and heartbreaking (keep tissues handy).

“When I started making this film, I kept thinking, I’d like to do good in the world, but I’m not Gandhi and I’m not Mother Theresa. I have a full-time job. What can I do?” says the film’s director, Jennifer Arnold, 39. “But after making the movie, I learned you can do something small. You might think it won’t make a difference, but there’s someone out there it will touch, and that person will touch someone else. All of us have the power to make a difference.”

So moved were audiences members at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where the documentary premiered, that they handed over checks and cash to Arnold, to go to the Hilde Back Foundation. “We raised $90,000 in ten days,” says Arnold. “And recently, one person donated $250,000 after watching the film. Because of donations like that, now hundreds of kids will be able to go to school.”

As Hilde Back says, “If you do something good, it can spread in circles, like rings on the water.”  Watch the trailer after the jump, or learn more about the Hilde Back Foundation and make a donation at

- Susan Pocharski

3 Responses to “Can’t-Miss Documentary: A Small Miracle”

  1. What a wonderful story! It gives me hope that when I support these programs that collect money for kids in underdeveloped countries, the money does actually go to the child and not to highly-paid administrators! Thank you for drawing attention to this movie. I will be watching on July 12!

  2. This is great! I can’t wait to watch it!

  3. I saw this documentary last night and it was so touching and amazing. Thank you for recommending it.