When it comes to telling a story about charity, and a real one for that matter, I always say you have two choices. On one hand you can sit comfortably and let the story take its own course without even hinting at trying to stay off the beaten past of what constitutes a compelling tale of real kindness. This is acceptable, and no one should even criticize because as plain as those movies feel, tales of such humanity shouldn’t be tampered with and the value of those stories is obviously effective.
But you also have the choice of making your film about that act of goodwill and what goes beyond its informative boundary. Regardless of the theme you use for your movie, that movie should be interesting, and that’s exactly what Paul Howard accomplishes with A Pebble In The Pond. Yes, it’s a film about an admirable feat that we should observe, celebrate and at least try to replicate. However, it is also a beautiful historical document about the roots of a lovely tradition and how a family’s legacy goes beyond the tangible. And in the end, a retelling (beautifully animated) yields with modern times, to confirm our capability of doing good to the world. Only if we want to.
In A Pebble In The Pond, the main subject is an organization called the Assistance League, which began its mission in 1890. Today the program is still successful in all of its offshoots. One of them is Operation School Bell and it consists of providing clothing, books, guidance, and so much more, to children who simply can’t make it. From the homeless to those living in the foster system, their basic needs are met by the honorable system born in California but spread throughout the entire country. Actress Ann Benson is in the forefront of the program, and she’s a force of nature capable of connecting the luxurious side of Hollywood with that poverty-stricken sphere that’s seldom explored.
The documentary is a beautiful collection of testimonies by those who have participated in the program since they were part of the affected population but are now helping in any way they can. Also we get to listen to women in charge of several of the activities in the program. This film is heart-warming, and will strike you at your core. Not because it’s endlessly dramatic and goes for the tragic sense of the situation, but because it’s based on the simplicity of the program that’s kept its bloodline intact since it was started by Anne Banning in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Paul Howard in the director’s chair with a drive for telling an impactful story that doesn’t stay lazily in the basis of its premise. With a subject as engaging as Benson he connects the audience with the cause. But then he goes further in digging deep about the secondary aspect of the program, one that’s not as basic as you would imagine and certainly the one that’s not talked about often. Because providing smiles can be simple, but trying to connect children with the cause provides them with a certain identity that’s surely positive to grow up with. A particular sequence in which children say what they want to be when they grow up will make you smile and cheer for the Assistance League, an organization that sounds too good to be real, but which exists and you can reach them.
Become a ripple.