Sundance 2021: Homeroom

Say hello to the Oakland High School senior class of 2020. They’re a representative sample of kids going to school in Oakland’s public schools, where rising crime rates, cuts to education, and inadequate health care mean the students here aren’t exactly being well prepared for their transition to adulthood.

Peter Nicks’ documentary clearly means to show us how difficult it is to be growing up in this rapidly changing climate – especially for this class of 2020 who of course were cut short by COVID-19. But it also really inspired me. These kids are different. They’re passionate. They’re awake. They mean to change the world. At least some of them do – like Denilson Garibo, for example – if the world is in his hands, I’m super comfortable giving him the reigns. This growing up stuff is tough but these kids are tuned in and ready to take to the streets for what they believe in. Yes the world is changing but so are the young people who’ll be left in charge of it.

The 2020 school year was of course unprecedented in many unforeseen ways and only time will tell how this blip will ultimately affect the young generation who put their lives on hold to wait it out, but this documentary will serve as a very interesting little time capsule that, as interesting as it is to watch today, will be even juicier to look back on when we have a little perspective. So many documentaries turn out to be quite different than what was originally intended, but Peter Nicks lets things roll as they may – and what choice does he have?

Nicks’ camera is a silent observer that can only show us small snippets of a few kids’ lives, but together they draw a very interesting portrait of what it’s like for the youth of today. You will feel heartened to get to know them.

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