Race to Nowhere

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Race to Nowhere
Race to Nowhere FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Vicki Abeles
Jessica Congdon
Produced by Vicki Abeles
Written by Maimone Attia
Music by Mark Adler (composer)
Cinematography Maimone Attia
Sophia E. Constantinou
Edited by Jessica Congdon
Reel Link Films
Release date
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Race to Nowhere is a 2009 documentary film written by Maimone Attia and directed by Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon.


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.[1]

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.[2]


Since its release in 2010, Race to Nowhere 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.”[citation needed] Trip Gabriel of The New York Times called it “a must-see movie.”[3]

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".[4] 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.[2] 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.[5]


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. Price of the movie depends on license, which ranges from individual home use to group screening in communities, education organizations, professional associations and civic groups. The individual household license has fixed price and includes a DVD disc, cost of other licenses is negotiated for each screening.

Related developments[edit]

Vicki Abeles continues to explore the theme of school students being overwhelmed by homework and needless pressure.[6] This helps to keep the motion picture relevant.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]