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Martin Ritt cornered the mid-70s market in lush, down-home liberalism with Sounder and this 1977 feature. Jon Voight stars as a South Carolina idealist who takes on the task of educating a group of island black children, most of whom are so neglected by the state's educational bureaucracy that they know neither the name of the country, how to count past four, nor the name of the ocean that washes up against their beach. Unfortunately, while Voight is in fine form as the immensely cheerful iconoclast, Ritt leaves far too much undefined and undifferentiated and tips over into pathos and unfunny caricature. It misses by less than a mile, but it misses.

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