Documentarians Seek Fixes for Faltering Schools

Filmmakers are coming to the rescue of Mexico's ailing education system with TV projects and a public awareness campaign.

MEXICO CITY -- Documentary filmmakers are coming to the rescue of Mexico's ailing education system.

Nicolas Vale, producer of Mexico's highest grossing documentary, Presunto Culpable (Presumed Guilty), aims to transform educational television here with an ambitious two-pronged project. 

An as-yet-unnamed 24-hour pay TV channel, set to launch next year, will feature documentary films, game shows and educational telenovelas to be developed by Miguel Sabido, a leading educational television producer. Televisa cabler Cablevision is one of several systems expected to carry the channel. 

Additionally the project will include a cutting-edge audiovisual distance learning program via satellite feed, which will target rural students of all ages. 

"We are not trying to do the Education Secretariat's job," Vale said. "We're just trying to help deliver their educational programs."

From the looks of things, the government can use the help. According to the documentary film De Panzazo, which recently had a sneak preview at the Morelia International Film Festival, Mexico's student test scores ranked last among OECD member nations. 

The Michael Moore-style De Panzazo describes the shortcomings of the education system, placing a large part of the blame on corruption in Mexico's powerful teachers union. 

Directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo (Those Who Remain) and narrated by Televisa news anchor Carlos Loret de Mola, the filmmakers hope the documentary will not only raise public awareness but also inspire Mexicans to get involved in educational reform. 

Distributor/exhibitor Cinepolis will release De Panzazo in February.