Education reform in the U.S. is always a hot-button issue, and now there are three different feature-length documentaries on the public school system—all being released at the same time.
The most highly anticipated of the three is Waiting for Superman, directed by Academy Award winner David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The film follows five kids across the country whose dreams lie in the hands of a broken public school system.
Similarly, The Lottery, by first-time film director Madeleine Sackler, follows four families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their kids in the lottery system to be part of Geoffrey Canada’s celebrated charter school, Harlem Success Academy.
Race to Nowhere also deals with America’s schools, but from a whole other class standpoint. Vicki Abeles is a suburban mom whose daughter was hospitalized from stress due to the pressures she faced to succeed in a highly competitive school. She decided to make a film about over-the-top homework and high-pressure schools.
All three films are clearly passion projects—but how will these documentary filmmakers get their films seen, and in the same season?
Waiting for Superman, with an Academy Award winning director behind it, will be released nationally in big cities across the country on September 24. The film’s trailer has been playing along with big box office movies and has started a “pledge to see the film” campaign. People can “pledge” online that they will see the film when it comes out, and cities where people sign up are displayed on a leaderboard, as if it was a contest. This way, movie houses can see that people have an interest in going to the film, and will be more likely to purchase it for their theater.
The Lottery is having a very limited theatrical release, screening just once so far in New York City, Baton Rouge, and Birmingham. As of September 1, it is available to screen on iTunes and several cable stations on-demand.
Race to Nowhere had limited 5 day releases in New York and Los Angeles, but is following a unique “screening day” model. Funded largely by the filmmaker, Race to Nowhere will give copies of the film to organizations to screen themselves on Sept. 24, Oct.4, Oct. 26, and Nov. 4. The organization must, however, provide the theater or screening space themselves, and have 100 people signed up to see it. This release model relies on people seeing screening the film as a sort of social action.
Will these films actually change the U.S. education system? Which film will be seen by the most people?
Will you go see any of these films?