Jennifer and I just finished watching City of Men on DVD (from Netflix). It is basically The Wire meets an After School Special, set in one of the favelas of Rio. That is, it captures the social dynamics of the city and was shot on location with excellent acting and cinematography, but it focuses on kids, is mostly self-contained, and has an overall pro-social message that resolves itself within a half hour. The show manages to consistently maintain the integrity of the story of the kids lives, while not as relentless or baroque as The Wire, every victory is balanced with some cost or setback. Well done, and some of the episodes would be appropriate for middle school students, although some have boobies, gangland executions and, iirc, swearing in subtitles.
Anyhow, highly recommended for adults and older kids.