Chicagoan Tod Lending, whose Oscar-nominated documentary Legacy
(2000) looked at a family trying to survive the Henry Horner Homes, returns to the west side for this Hoop Dreams
-like story of two impoverished Englewood teens fighting an uphill battle to get through college. Robert Henderson and Krishaun Branch both graduate from Urban Prep, a charter school for disadvantaged students, and Lending cuts back and forth between them as Henderson, hoping to complete a pre-med degree, matriculates to lily-white Lake Forest College, whereas Branch, who's interested in law enforcement, enrolls at Fisk University in Nashville. Both young men have trouble keeping up as undergraduates, and the action cuts rather abruptly from their mounting academic difficulties to their ultimate triumphs without much explanation. But Lending has gotten the big picture into sharp focus, showing how the growing financial and emotional burdens of higher education weigh even more heavily on the poor.