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North St. Louis, Missouri teenager Daje Shelton has reached her final option for schooling before becoming a part of “the system.” Following a violent outburst at her last school, Daje has been sent to a school specifically created for troubled youths with no other options outside of being forced to drop out of school. Daje tries her hardest to make school work and her mother does her best to provide necessary support, but when Daje becomes pregnant, things get even tougher.

Set against the backdrop of rising racial tensions in nearby Ferguson over the shooting death of Mike Brown, For Akheem paints a rich and painfully empathetic look at one girl’s struggle to rise above the poverty, sexism, and racism around her. Daje isn’t woke, or even all that socially conscious, but rather a flesh and blood human being trying to find their own way in life in the face of long odds, minimal (but strong) support systems, and a system designed for years to hold people like her back.

Filmmakers Landon Van Soest and Jeremy S. Levine follow Daje closely over the course of what should be her final year of high school before getting tossed to the wolves of the real world, and to their credit they never shy away from her reality. Even if it makes Daje look potentially less than sympathetic or like she’s a walking contradiction, Soest and Levine lets things play as they are. For Ahkeem is a masterclass in verite filmmaking, and one of the most powerful documentaries ever crafted about the current nature of race relations in America.