Each of [the] six young subjects vying for the Youth America Grand Prix (and the priceless award of a full scholarship to a top ballet school) is a wonder of self-imposed discipline in service to art.
Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly
An appealing, largely upbeat documentary about young ballet dancers duking it out, sometimes on point and in tulle, for top honors at the Youth America Grand Prix.
Manohla Dargis - New York Times
It's an intense journey, and Kargman captures it all, down to the dancers' bloodied and bruised feet.
Amy Hitt - Washington Post
Because its subjects are so driven and so talented, "First Position," which is about ballet, is more gripping than the norm.
Ty Burr - Boston Globe
The result is a film that eschews in-depth insight in favor of easily digestible who's-going-to-win suspense...
Nick Schager - Village Voice
Their devotion to their art is admirable, and the film gets under the skin, if never really in our blood.
Joe Neumaier - New York Daily News
Beneath the jetes and bleeding feet, First Position is about toughness of mind as much as visions of beauty. In one case it's about a transformation so profound as to be unfathomable.
Joe Morgenstern - Wall Street Journal
The film shows the grueling work it takes for young dancers like Zamora to look effortless on stage, and First Position shows teachers who range from supportive to borderline abusive.
Ellen Dunkel - Philadelphia Inquirer
It's in the quick audience-reaction shots of the young dancers' exultant parents and cringing private instructors that the movie finds its most nakedly human moments.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
A number of the performances are plain stunning - Aran and Joan, in particular, seem born to move - and in many ways watching the movie is like watching a sporting event; there are winners and losers and favorites to cheer on.
Tom Long - Detroit News
It's a triumph, in more ways than one.
Rex Reed - New York Observer
Never putting a foot wrong, tyro helmer Bess Kargman's touching, enormously satisfying docu First Position follows six gifted ballet students from disparate social, regional, economic and ethnic backgrounds as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix
Alissa Simon - Variety
[It] seems fresh in the way it respects both the art in ballet and the discipline it demands - even in childhood.
Farran Smith Nehme - New York Post
If you have a yearning to feel awkward, inadequate and lazy, watching the whirling teenage (and preteen) talents in director Bess Kargman's First Position will do the trick.
Linda Barnard - Toronto Star
It does a great job developing its characters through its visuals - these are superphysical kids - and honing in on family dynamics.
Jennie Punter - Globe and Mail
First Position is an unabashedly inspirational portrait of what even very young people can accomplish with discipline and dedication.
Dana Stevens - Slate
First Position overcomes its predictable elements thanks to the inherent visual drama of watching children strain their bodies to the limit in obsessive pursuit of their goals.
Frank Scheck - Hollywood Reporter
At least half of these young dynamos and their families, all vying for coveted scholarships and spots in ballet companies, could brighten the most forlorn perspective on the state of the American dream.
Mary F. Pols - TIME Magazine
These performers are so young, so serious, so full of dreams and so hard on themselves that it is difficult not to be moved by their striving.
Kenneth Turan - Los Angeles Times
The joy of watching lies in the purity of the dancer's passion.
Rebecca Barry - Flicks.co.nz
A superior example of the genre, it concentrates on six young dancers from around the world ...
Philip French - Observer [UK]
Like the engaging hit documentary Spellbound, this dance competition film gets under the skin and holds us in its grip like a well-crafted thriller.
Rich Cline - Contactmusic.com
Anyone with an interest in dance should enjoy this documentary ...
Derek Malcolm - This is London
Settles for heartwarming "follow your dreams" platitudes rather than following the cold realities of being a dancer.
David Jenkins - Little White Lies
It's humane, involving and inspirational.
Christopher Tookey - Daily Mail [UK]
A blandly feelgood documentary about aspiring young ballet dancers.
A griping documentary following several ballet hopefuls as they prepare for an international competition.
Antonia Quirke - Financial Times
Impressively directed and superbly edited, this is an emotionally engaging documentary with likeable subjects, stunning dance sequences and a suspenseful climax.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
Undeniably effective as drama, as we ponder the varying degrees of ambition and talent driving these young people to push their bodies beyond the limit in the hope of grasping a future in the spotlight.
Trevor Johnston - Time Out
If you thought Black Swan made ballet look grim, this festival-fave documentary offers an earthier but no less griping portrait of the profession's crippling realities.
Emma Dibdin - Total Film
A touching look at ballet's battle-hardened youngsters.
Patrick Peters - Empire Magazine
If this film doesn't put a smile on your face, you are too hard to please.
Matthew Toomey - ABC Radio Brisbane
Hopes are shared and dreams expressed during this uplifting journey in which we become involved in each of the dancers' lives. As a consequence, we have a stake in what happens and are often moved as a result of the drama and tension
Louise Keller - Urban Cinefile
Debut director Bess Kargman establishes herself as a skilled documentarian, drawing out humour and tension from the contestants' experiences without manipulating their stories for melodramatic effect.
Paul Gallagher - The List
First time director Bess Kargman has done a great job with this film in letting the personalities of these dancers and their families shine through.
Robert Roten - Laramie Movie Scope
It's enjoyable watching the motivated youngsters pirouetting their way to success.
Dennis Schwartz - Ozus' World Movie Reviews
An arresting documentary about the dedication and sacrifice it takes to be able to spin around like a whirling dervish on the tip of your toes without getting sickeningly dizzy.
Erick Weber - NECN
Far from the dutiful progeny of "Dance Moms," these are individuals of uncommon skill, self-knowledge, maturity and drive. They're the real deal. And so is First Position.
Rick Kisonak - Film Threat
All of the dollars and expertise that produced this summer's blockbusters could never produce a spectacle as wondrous as 11-year-old Aran Bell dancing his heart out.
Jeffrey Overstreet - Image
Kargman ... brings a welcome empathy to this programmatic film that follows six hopefuls as they compete in something called the Youth America Grand Prix, which we're told is the most comprehensive ballet competition in the world.
Philip Martin - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
The children are almost unearthly in their agility and elegance -- until they remove their shoes, and reveal their all-too-human abrasions and injuries.
John Beifuss - Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
It's a wealth of material at odds with a scant running time and shallow focus.
Kimberley Jones - Austin Chronicle
When it's over, you won't remember so much about who won and who lost. Instead, what remains is the expression on a young dancer's face, reflected in a mirror: showing the joy of being in love with what you do.
Moira MacDonald - Seattle Times
What we experience is the overwhelming thrill of the competition and the true agony of defeat.
Jeanne Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
It could very well compete for Best Documentary at next year's Academy Awards.
David Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
For someone (like me) who has never been to a ballet, the talent of these teens and tweens is a revelation.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
It's 'Spartacus' en pointe.
James Verniere - Boston Herald
Inspiring documentary about hardworking young dancers.
S. Jhoanna Robledo - Common Sense Media
Almost loses its sense of good taste entirely in the final act, straining to build suspense and shape heroes. The bias hangs a little ugly in an otherwise passable, somewhat enlightening effort.
Brian Orndorf - BrianOrndorf.com
The cookie cutter format Kargman uses in presenting her subjects may be unoriginal but a safe way to introduce the filmmaker to her new audience.
Robin Clifford - Reeling Reviews
Yes, it is possible to create a gripping documentary about the ballet world without resorting to "Black Swan" melodramatics.
Allan Ulrich - San Francisco Chronicle
Child ballet dancer and former journalist Bess Kargman brings a dancer's passion and insight to her directorial debut, illuminating the addictive magic and fierce demands of a ballet dancer's life.
Jordan Levin - Miami Herald
Really, all of the dancers' evident passion for their art is, well, spellbinding.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
These kids are proud of their tights.
Brett Michel - Boston Phoenix
Kargman follows the pre-established pattern of documentaries following competitions from crosswords to spelling bees, but the format works and she's found six kids ranging in age from 9 to 16 who are truly involving.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
This is yet another competition doc in the unending legacy of Spellbound, but Kargman is light on her feet, and she has chosen to follow a fascinating group of kids preparing for the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix.
Magically upbeat and exhilarating in spirit. Particularly noteworthy is the way director Bess Kargman manages to address a few world issues with great hopefulness.
Christopher Campbell - Movies.com
Documentaries don't have to be technically great to be irresistible, and Bess Kargman's First Position, which follows six young ballet dancers as they prepare for an elite competition, is a case in point.
Stephanie Zacharek - Movieline
Its enjoyment is not limited to dance aficionados.
Todd Jorgenson - Cinemalogue.com
The doc twists out its six narrative threads with measured compassion and even-handedness.
John Semley - Slant Magazine
I've become weary of documentaries about winning prizes, but this one is special because the kids are. They are ardent and amazingly accomplished, but they are also... kids.
Peter Rainer - Christian Science Monitor
Truly exhilarating documentary about gifted young ballet dancers competing for scholarships and contracts with the world's top ballet companies is at the top of its genre.
Doris Toumarkine - Film Journal International
The stakes of the final competition [are] heart-poundingly high, even for those who don't give a damn about tights and tutus.
Alison Willmore - AV Club
Director Bess Kargman does an excellent job here with this initial plunge into filmmaking, for her choice of participants could not have been better.
Donald J. Levit - ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Bess Kargman's movie is imbued with a seriousness that sets it apart from typical 'competition docs.'
Robert Levin - amNewYork
It's a great introduction to the intriguing mix of parents - neurotic, loving, pressuring, calming - who raise great kids who do great things.
Linda Holmes - NPR
...crowd-pleasing but ultimately dissatisfying
Chris Barsanti - Filmcritic.com
An interesting look into the intense labor these children put into crafting performances that are meant to look beautiful and effortless. That being said, the documentary offers no real surprises.
Emily Kirkpatrick - Paste Magazine
This material could have been assembled into a more creative and suspenseful narrative.
Joshua Rothkopf - Time Out
This masterfully thoughtful documentary incisively records the trials and tribulations of getting en pointe as a career move.
Brandon Judell - CultureCatch