School Superman movie
On a recent international plane flight, I got a chance to watch the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’.
Waiting for Superman As a Movie
Like all documentary-stye movies, it first must succeed as a movie and then succeed as a purveyor of informative and factual information. Far too often a documentary-style movie cannot maintain interest long enough for the viewer to make it through the movie. And in particular in on-demand situations like NetFlix, viewers are quick to cut their viewing short if a movie does not hold their interest. As a matter of fact, I still have not seen all of ‘Supersize Me’ even though people told me that it gets much better after the exceedingly dull and self-absorbed first 45 minutes.
The good news is that ‘Waiting for Superman’ is well crafted as a film. They hook you early, tell you the source of the film’s name, introduce you to lots of characters and give you just enough detail on each of the characters to make you want to keep watching. I loved the interplay that mixed families with experts along with really cool narrated graphic sequences. I love the geographic diversity and socioeconomic diversity. It made it so that as you watched the film, it was very hard to pretend that this was about ‘someone else’ – the movie is about all of us and applies to all of us. We are all involved.
As the plot unfolds, the drama increases and we are ever more deeply drawn into the lives of the characters. We see the lead up and are given lots of context about each student’s situation. We see both sides of the ‘tracks’ in the form of the schools the students are currently enrolled in and the schools they hope to be accepted into. The film makers repeatedly draw the line between glorious success and abject failure, punctuating their description with beautifully animated graphics with facts and figures to draw us in and make sure that we never think that the issues are small or isolated.
But the time the film reaches its climax and all the charter school lotteries are happening, the film makers have the audience eating out of their hands. And like all good movies about education (i.e. Stand and Deliver) I was dabbing my eyes with kleenex (in seat 17G) throughout all of the final scenes. The heart wrenching emotions that the parents and students are feeling and talking about on camera make for some damn good film making.
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