Sunday, February 20, 2011

Diane Ravitch Makes an Offer We Cannot Refuse as "Absolute Truth Behind WFS" Moves to Completion

Who would you rather receive a phone call from, Geoffrey Canada or Diane Ravitch?
I ain't Geoffrey Canada, but you can offer me for a 10 minute chat.
Yes, we'll be raffling off a phone call from Diane for those who host house or school parties for the Grassroots Education Movement soon to be released film, "The Absolute Truth Behind Waiting for Superman."(See trailer here).

Diane's offer was prompted by the this call from the ed deformers for their WFS propaganda film:
National DVD House Party Day
Waiting for "Superman" is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. We invite you to join us on February 25 for our National DVD House Party Day. Here's how you can take part:
1.     Order your DVD or Blu-ray on
2.     Sign up to receive the Waiting for "Superman" DVD House Party Guide for all the tips and tools you need to host a great evening.
3.     Invite your friends and family to join you on February 25! Can't host a house party on the 25th? Don't worry, you can do it any time.
When you sign up, you will also be entered for a chance to win a personal phone call with Harlem Children's Zone Founder, Geoffrey Canada on the night of your party.
Happy viewing!
Gag! gag!!  gag!!! It took Diane about 10 minutes to respond with her own offer of a phone call. Yes, she sure ain't Geoffrey Canada, thank goodness.

We held our first preview of our film on Thursday evening in front of about 50 people who were asked to fill out evaluation forms giving us guidance on the final editing. A rousing discussion was held after the 50 minute film ended.

There were lots of suggestions and criticisms and we are looking at the evaluations to see where we might improve the film without making it much longer. A key question is "Who is the target audience?" People who already agree with us but have not yet gotten active in the resistance or people on the fence who might be won over? I'm still up in the air on this one, waiting to gage more reactions though I am leaning to the former - we will not be able to build a resistance without ground troops - so if the film inspires people to become more active it will be an accomplishment. There were some suggestions that by sharpening up some of the info we present we might move the fence sitters.

A little history of the film
NYC special ed teacher Julie Cavanagh, who was one of the main writers and narrators along with Brian Jones, told the audience that the movie idea was hatched in my "man cave" (which as readers of this blog know has turned more into a female cave) last August when she and I were working on a short film (Educational Dysfunction at the New York City DOE).

We took a look at the WFS trailer and were so disgusted we decided to make our own film in response. I suggested a spoof but Julie felt we needed a serious well-thought out response. She was right.

As members of GEM we brought the idea to the group and they enthusiastically supported the project. We were joined by DM, who also works in the school system at a public school invaded by Harlem Success Academy (as does Brian Jones) and he became the main editor and a narrator on the film (thus allowing this old guy to rest). Julie also teaches at a co-location invaded public school by a charter (PAVE) school operator with lots of political influence. (The charter school push into public schools is our best organizer). We asked long-time activist Brian Jones to narrate along with Julie.

When WFS opened in late September, we organized a rally at the theater, wearing red capes with "RR" stamped on the back and started publicizing a list of Real Reforms rather than market-based ed deform anti-union and anti-teacher program so celebrated in WFS. They performed a rap song throughout the evening protest in front of the theater. Thus was born the Real Reformers who have performed at various PEP meetings since then.

In the meantime, while we worked on the film, GEM continued to respond as more schools closings and charter co-locos were announced, along with the Cathie Black nomination as Chancellor.  More and more footage accumulated and we were revising and adding B-role as we worked. Once we set the Feb. 17 date we had to move to get a completed product. Last Saturday we spent 12 hours finalizing the draft. A dvd wasn't cut till Wednesday, which made an old techie who always saw so many DoE events get screwed up by bad tech, very nervous.

I ran up to Williamsburg to get a copy but didn't get to watch it till last Weds eve, the first time any of us had actually watched the film from end to end. I tried to watch it as an outsider. I was impressed with the work they had done in putting this together, though I am ambivalent on how we deal with the union - we have a strong piece on the attacks on unions but do not address the problems with the UFT/AFT support for ed deform, the feeling being  - correctly I believe that this is not the place to get into that -  yet I don't think we can totally ignore this point. We're hoping to resolve this in further edits. Anyway, I didn't fall asleep, which is quite a tribute since I fall asleep at everything.

And then came the offer of support for the film from Diane Ravitch (who gave me an exclusive interview for the film - and looks wonderful in it in addition to giving her usual sharp analysis). So, start getting out those chips for your house or school party and a chance to win an exclusive phone call from Diane Ravitch.

Why did Waiting for Superman get snubbed and Exit Through the Gift Shop get nommed? - Ravitch Critique played major role

Davis Guggenheim’s doc about poor kids and charter schools got 11 major film award nominations and won four, including the National Board of Review and Sundance Audience Prize. Most pundits thought it a shoo-in. He won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth, and had major help from Bill Gates, Oprah and Obama. Some fear prankster Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop is all a hoax.
Why it happened: Guggenheim’s big backers may have actually irked independent-minded Academy members. Worse, his teacher’s union-bashing film was embraced by conservatives, one of whom said his Oscar snub is “the price a political apostate pays in Hollywood for straying off the liberal plantation.” Education expert Diane Ravitch trashed it as inaccurate. A more dispassionate expert says, “The first response to the movie was that it’s about poor black kids, and it’s from the Gore guy, so it must be liberal and good-hearted. And then Ravitch and others portrayed it as basically right-wing propaganda, which unsettled the liberal members of the Academy. I don’t think the movie is as reactionary as Ravitch portrayed it, but I also don’t think it’s very good.” An Oscar doc voter agrees. “It was a great deal of hype. I felt like I’d seen the story before.” “It also tanked at the box office, relative to what was spent on promoting it,” adds the education expert. “The true unforgivable sin in Hollywood!”

1 comment:

  1. How do we sign up to give a party for The Inconvenient Truth behind Waiting for Superman?

    Katherine Cox


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