Went out tonight, and saw the movie. Canal Place theatre was packed for the show with what looked like a reasonably diverse crowd of both color and age. In the era of over the top documentaries, this one reaches in and grabs you on a much different level.
For those of you wondering what it is, Left Behind is a documentary about a school system that brings new meaning to the term "in trouble." But what could have been a 90 minute heartbreak or guilt trip is produced and directed in such a way that you are very glad you took the time to watch the thing.
Though it gets a little preachy at the end, including interviews with Noam Chomsky, the meat of Left Behind is in the first hour, as the facts and history of the 2003 to 2005 timeframe are discussed. The interviews and cuts of school board members are priceless in a Chapelle Show Rick James kind of way. A 'money is a hell of a motive' quote would fit seamlessly.
The interviews with the social activists captures the gamut of emotions that must be felt from professionals proud of their own work who are not allowed to do their jobs. The scenes with the parents and citizens underscore the absolute frustration with a system that refuses to get anything done despite changes apparently for the better.
The documentary also blends humor with tragedy in the way only New Orleanians can, and instills a great deal of hope at the end in the ability of human beings to both overcome tragedy and turn their learning experience into a tool to help others. This comes mainly from the stories of the high schoolers who were featured and helped make this documentary (with quotes like: "can I sneak a camera into the school? Probably. Hell, you can get guns in easy enough. [sic]") Even the worst and most down trodden of the high schoolers are more candid and speak more intelligently about their own situations than most of the adults who hold political office or Ph.D's.
Not that that suprises me, or anything.
They said they had a hundred hours of footage. I'm ready for the DVD to come out, and I could just watch interviews with the high schoolers put in between interviews with the elected officials.
The movie won't be in New Orleans for some time, apparently, as the filmmakers take the thing on the road to Boston College, Harvard and the US Department of Education. Hopefully it will make a difference where a difference needs to be made. I hope this kind of thing gets more play in the public eye.