Now on DVD/VOD: AMERICAN TEACHER
Directors Vanessa Roth (Short Documentary Oscar winner for FREEHELD) and Brian McGinn’s profile of the plight of America’s education system through its teachers had its world premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival last May, and has screened extensively at other festivals and through community screenings ever since. It had a limited theatrical release this past Fall and is now available on DVD and via various VOD platforms.
Adding to the debate on education reform that has garnered national attention through earlier documentaries like WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN”, Roth and McGinn’s film (which counts Dave Eggers as a producer, and Matt Damon as the narrator) turns the focus to the educators. Focusing on the stories of four teachers around the US, the film demonstrates the often insurmountable challenges they face – its promotional campaign spells it out plainly: “Dedicated. Brilliant. Inspiring. Underpaid. Misunderstood. Scapegoated. There’s a lesson here.” No matter one’s stance on how education reform should be carried out, it would be hard to deny that the profession is undervalued relative to the work that typically goes into it. The doc takes pains to debunk the myths of a short work day and months of vacation, revealing the stresses that come with the job. The film takes a microscopic view, almost exclusively focused on the idea of raising teachers’ salaries to encourage better candidates to enter the profession and to discourage the current high rate of those who end up leaving the field, and never addressing the criticisms raised in other films around unions, tenure, and the protection of bad teachers. Despite this, the doc succeeds in dispelling myths about our nation’s educators and highlights the still-present need for significant reform of some kind – or risk having our children slip even further behind.