Race to Nowhere
|Race to Nowhere|
|Directed by||Vicki Abeles
|Produced by||Vicki Abeles|
|Written by||Maimone Attia|
|Music by||Mark Adler|
Sophia E. Constantinou
|Editing by||Jessica Congdon|
|Studio||Reel Link Films|
|Running time||85 minutes|
|This section requires expansion. (March 2011)|
Part of the power of Race to Nowhere is in its personal story. The film came into being after director Vicki Abeles discovered that the pressures of school, homework, tutoring and extracurricular activities were making her middle-school daughter physically sick. The notion that her daughter – a seemingly normal teenager – had been diagnosed with a stress-induced illness was a painful wake-up call and a catalyst for change.
Determined to help her get well, Abeles started to make changes at home, but the problem seemed more systemic. She began talking with other kids and parents and everywhere she heard similar stories about the unintended consequences of today’s education system and culture to our children and their future. The difficulty at first seemed to center on one critical issue: the plight of students driven to acquire the academic credentials that would facilitate acceptance by a good university and ensure a rewarding career. Recounting the story of a local high school girl who committed suicide under fear of academic failure, the film’s narrative then expands to include a scathing indictment of some of our most fundamental assumptions about the way we educate children.
Director Abeles realized that a documentary film could be a powerful lever in giving voice to those who are the first concern within the educational system yet are often the last to be heard.
Race to Nowhere is a film containing stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their children.
Since its release in 2010, Race to Nowhere has enjoyed an unusual longevity for a documentary motion picture. It has garnered a wide range of praise and criticism. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch has called it “a compelling film about the stress that kids today experience.” Trip Gabriel of The New York Times called it “a must-see movie.”
In a review for Slant Magazine, Jesse Cataldo gave the film a rating of two stars out of four and criticised the film's lack of objectivity and "occasional lapses into hysterical worrywarting", but called it "the rare documentary that provides legitimate answers to the questions it raises". Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times was critical of the director's attempt to make a "single, clear narrative" out of such a large topic, but praised her compassion. Writing for The Village Voice, Ella Taylor said that the director "sheds little new light" on why many parents, teachers and politicians are in favor of extensive homework and testing of high school students. Many students, on the other hand, are inspired to add their voice to the dialogue. One example is Erica Rohde, who was able to share her story as a staff writer for Coppell Student Media at Coppell High School.
Though Abeles has been approached by major distributors offering to place her movie in commercial theaters, the filmmaker has chosen to distribute the film directly to communities, education organizations, professional associations, PTAs and civic groups. This grassroots model utilizes people who are passionate about the subject, promoting it largely via word-of-mouth. The film is routinely screened in school auditoriums, libraries, and in churches and temples; it has been shown in thousands of venues, including most major markets in America and in several foreign countries.
- "Race to Nowhere", film website
- Catsoulis, Jeannette (September 9, 2010), "The Overscheduled Child", The New York Times (The New York Times Company), retrieved March 17, 2011
- Diane Ravitch
- Trip Gabriel, (December 8, 2010) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/education/09nowhere.html
- Cataldo, Jesse (September 6, 2010), "Race to Nowhere", Slant Magazine, retrieved March 17, 2011
- Taylor, Ella (September 8, 2010), "Mom's Mad as Hell and Not Gonna Take It Anymore in Education Doc Race to Nowhere", The Village Voice (Village Voice Media), retrieved March 17, 2011