Follows students, teachers and administrators in suburban Chicago's Oak Park and River Forest High School over the course of a year.




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Series cast summary:
Charles Donalson Jr. Charles Donalson Jr. ...  Self 5 episodes, 2018
Ke'Shawn Kumsa Ke'Shawn Kumsa ...  Self 5 episodes, 2018
Grant Lee Grant Lee ...  Self 5 episodes, 2018
Kendale McCoy Kendale McCoy ...  Self 5 episodes, 2018
Tiara Oliphant Tiara Oliphant ...  Self 5 episodes, 2018


Follows students, teachers and administrators in suburban Chicago's Oak Park and River Forest High School over the course of a year.

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teacher | school | See All (2) »




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Did You Know?


Shot during the 2015-2016 OPRF school year. Featured over 10 subjects followed the entire year and consisted of over 1,400 hours of footage. See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Krusty the Clown (2018) See more »

User Reviews

Great contemporary slice of high school life undone by lack of reflection
12 March 2021 | by db-155See all my reviews

This doco gives great insight into the lives of high schoolers in 2016, not only in Oak Park, but effectively highlights the challenges of cross-cultural / cross-racial education in the context of continuing white supremacy even against ongoing efforts in schools ad schooling to address racial inequity. The overall message is that even when everyone can see more or less where the problems are on the ground, and everyone knows which individual teachers are making a difference (good and bad), the system does not appear to change. The portraits of ambitious teachers (black and white) seeking to make a difference and enacting this in their relationships with students is the strength of the series and every teacher would I think learn from these. The filmmakers also get great insight out of the students, who are often savvy about the opportunities and limitations of the camera but nevertheless give great content at no small personal risk - mostly I felt that I am privileged to have lived my own teenage-hood largely away from the camera.

The series is let down by its self-satisfaction with its own role on behalf of those who agreed to appear in the film, and its lack of interest in the lives of those who chose not to be interviewed (the Black principal and Asian-American Superintendent being the most prominent). We get no insight into the very real political constraints that play a part in what is not unfairly characterised as their lack of engagement with the life of the classroom. Here Steve James makes the poor choice to interview the principal's white predecessor to comment on the current principal's performance, and unsurprisingly the current principal is found wanting for their lack of bravery as leading to the lack of success (a critique echoed elsewhere in the series). The scenario of a white filmmaker interviewing an old white man to get quotes about the poor performance of the principal is literally the only insight we get into the many political relationships up the chain every administrator knows is part of the art of survival. In this respect, it mirrors some of the racial dynamics it attempts to critique - there are other Black school principals of many different ideologies who, I am sure, could have shed light on the dynamics of the situation, but James chose not to include them, preferring to keep the camera on the side of the more clearly worthy.

But in documentary ethics today, we discuss the need to study up rather than down, if we are to avoid making works that unwittingly satisfy a privileged demand for an experience of outrage on behalf of those who the privileged would never actually engage with. I enjoyed the series but couldn't help but feel that a Black filmmaker would have distributed our attention and sympathy differently. This is perhaps the lesson the series is asking teaching administrations to understand, but the series also needed to ask it of itself, and we don't get that.

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Release Date:

26 August 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

America To Me See more »

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