With so many of us snowed in or on lockdown, we thought it would be a great time to highlight some absorbing documentaries to keep you warm!
The educational system documentary. Despite all the bad press about schools today, many filmmakers have been steadfastly creating documentaries that highlight some of the most compelling stories out of our schools and from our remarkable teachers and kids. Some of these films may shock you, others move you to tears. All of them will give you hope.
Here are our top five favorites:
5. The Great Cafeteria Takeover.
A group of teens and pre-teens post-Katrina dismayed at the appalling quality of cafeteria food sets out to actually change it. (HBO.)
Follow super-spellers as they spend every waking moment preparing obsessively for the 1999 National Spelling Bee. Oddly as tense as any thriller, you will agonize over every letter right along with them. (Netflix, Amazon.)
3. American Teacher
Profiling four extraordinary teachers as they give everything of themselves for very little pay or accolades to educate our kids. (streaming Netflix, Amazon.)
2. Pressure Cooker
1. To Be and to Have
Perhaps the opposite of Wilma Stephenson and her tough love, soft spoken French teacher Georges Lopez is gentle, patient and kind. He guides his one-room schoolhouse of all ages through lessons on penmanship, omelet flipping, and working together in harmony. In one particularly moving scene, he brings a stoic school bully to silent tears as he talks to him calmly about how his words and actions are hurting others. We find out some time later, the boy's father is in a serious battle with cancer. But, that's no excuse for Lopez. "Sickness is a part of life," Lopez tells him as they chat together under a tree. His simple words somehow seem to bring the child comfort.
In nearly every conversation he has with his students, he asks for their thoughts and opinions on the matter, and the children show him tremendous respect in return. When he asks his younger students what they want to be when they grow up, not surprisingly, many of them say teachers. Aptly dubbed by some viewers as a "Hymn to Teaching," this gradual unfolding of a year in the life of one very special educator and his class is an absolute work of art. (The only sad part about the film, is that due to the unexpected massive success of the film, Lopez said he and his students felt exploited, and that fame traumatized some of his students.) (Netflix, Amazon.)