Documentarian Davis Guggenheim hasn’t made a film as topical as Waiting For Superman since his divisive ecological eye-opener An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. That critically adorned piece of non-fiction presented the facts of our environmental failure in finger-pointing fashion allowing audiences to finally see (some of) the faces that have contributed to the global warming scare and understand the reasons that we should take its effects seriously. His conclusions were debatable because they were intangible but not those in Waiting For Superman; we needn’t look any further than our own local public schools to see that the decline in quality education in America is both inconvenient and truthful.
To tell this sad tale of sub-par test scores and teachers Guggenheim goes to a handful of under-privileged neighborhoods and takes us inside the “drop-out factories” – or inadequate educational institutions – that leave children unprepared to face the challenges of the 21st century. He makes it an even more personal matter by following four families all struggling to make ends meet with young children that aspire to do great things but are met with incredible challenges in the American public school system. What’s most frustrating is that the real problems aren’t present in the schools themselves. To find those responsible for budget cuts and bad policies you have to work your way up an intricate web of bureau’s departments unions and board members that make cavalier decisions that effect your children.
For those looking for a fine piece of thought-provoking entertainment fear not; Waiting For Superman isn’t all doom in the classroom. The film introduces a number of inspiring individuals fighting for America’s future one student at a time. From Geoffrey Canada educator activist and president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone to Michelle Rhee the former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system (one of the worst in the country) Guggenheim shows us that there are remarkable soldiers on the front lines of this academic battle. He also presents stats and figures in a playful manner using animated sequences to lighten the blow of the staggering information. And though the special features are relatively slim with just a conversation with the controversial director and a quartet of additional teacher/student stories filling the extra disc space they collectively strengthen his argument and make it quite clear that action must be taken now.
I could honestly gush over this infuriating and insightful film for hours but telling you about it just won’t do it justice. Waiting For Superman is a wake up call to every registered voter in the country. It sheds light upon the greatest enemy threatening our country; one that dwells within our respective communities and one that together we can conquer.