(director/writer: Peter Nicks; screenwriters: based on a story by Nicks, Sean Havey, Kristina Motwani; cinematographer: Sean Havey; editor: Kristina Motwani/Rebecca Adorno; music: Mike Tuccillo; cast: Denilson Garibo, Libby Schaaf; Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Sean Havey/Peter Nicks: Hulu; 2021)
“Well-observed school documentary.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This well-observed school documentary by Peter Nicks (“The Force “/”The Waiting Room”) follows a group of Oakland High School students seeking social justice during 2019 and in 2020, as seniors, during the year of the Covid-19 outbreak, deal with the pandemic and graduation. This sincere and heartfelt documentary during this trying time films cinema vérité style to show us and future generations what this crazy time was like. How they will view this film now and later, remains to be seen.
The students, all introduced in the film, clamor for Oakland to remove from their schools all police officers. The teens seem to be speaking with a unified voice, which troubled me. Especially as violence in the city and in the schools is a real issue and I don’t see how by removing the police things will improve; that is, unless you think the police are actually the problem. It might be better if the teens, the city officials, the educators and the police can dialogue together and try to resolve the problems in a good-will manner.
When the schools close and the students isolate during the pandemic, the film seems to go nowhere and its second half has nothing to say that matters much. But the story is not over. Let’s see how the students act when back in their classes and over time maybe their activism in the community can help unite it and make it a safer place.
The film leaves us with the impression the filmmaker does all he can to tells us what the students are up to, but it’s up to the students to work to change the system for the better.
REVIEWED ON 8/19/2021 GRADE: B-