DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 51min
DIRECTED BY: Davis Guggenheim
Class act: Harlem, New York, educator and activist Geoffrey Canada
Davis Guggenheim is a fired-up documentarian with agendas that matter — this, remember, is the guy who directed 2006's spookily prescient An Inconvenient Truth. The agenda in Waiting for “Superman” is the current standard of American public schools, and he makes an impassioned case for how crummy it is.
The avalanche of stats boils down to one condemning fact: that “millions of [poorly educated] kids are walking the streets with no vested interest in living.” From a quagmire of bureaucratic incompetence, Guggenheim plucks five young kids and their dedicated, struggling families from across the country. In these serious moppets lie seeds of possibility but with so few good schools available and the chances of acceptance so random, their dreams are unlikely to be realised.
Scathing? Absolutely. But the punchy director is also a showman, with nattily illustrative graphics and a warm regard for his valiant subjects. And he does see a bright side: in exceptional educators who smash through limitations and in the children who so deserve a fair shot at life.