We the Parents: Film Review

"We the Parents"
Although it barely scratches the surface of its complex subject, this inspiring documentary should inspire further debate.

James Takata's documentary chronicles the efforts of a group of Compton parents fighting for better education through the state's "parent trigger" law.

A sort of documentary correlative to the recent activism drama Won’t Back Down starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola DavisJames Takata’s no-budget film chronicles the efforts of a group of Compton parents to secure better education for their children via California’s so-called "parent trigger" law. While We the Parents, running a little over an hour, barely scratches the surface of its vital and socially important topic, it should fulfill its goal of inspiring similar cases nationwide. That is, if this film receiving a limited theatrical release manages to get the necessary exposure.

Under the law, which has seen been enacted in several other states, concerned parents have the right to take on a failing school -- in this case Compton’s McKinley Elementary -- with one of three goals in mind: conversion to a charter school, replacing the principal and staff or closing the school completely.

Naturally this doesn’t sit well with educators, as evidenced by this quote from an onscreen interview with the president of the California Federation of Teachers: “You don’t let the patients decide what the doctors can do,” he asserts.

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On the other hand, support for the parents’ efforts is made evident in testimony from the likes of Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as a pastor who says that “education is the civil rights issue of today.”

Providing such sobering statistics as the fact that less than 4 percent of high school seniors qualify to apply to California state universities, the film details how the parents -- supported by a non-profit group called Parent Revolution and a high-powered law firm that provided its services pro bono -- successfully managed to secure their goals.  

Featuring impassioned interviews with many of the parents involved -- “It’s not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, it’s not a Latino thing, it’s a child thing…it’s for our children,” one asserts -- the film doesn’t fully succeed in elucidating its complex issues. But the widespread problem it explores is clearly undeniable, and at the very least this rough-hewn but provocative documentary will hopefully inspire further discussion.

Opens Aug. 16 (Go for Broke Pictures)

Director: James Takata

Screenwriters/producers: James Takata, Jennifer Welsh Takata

Executive producer: Kenneth Li

Director of photography: Milton Santiago

Editor: Libby Cuenin

Composer: Michael John Mollo

Not rated, 61 min.