We shall overcome - on film? About education?
June 1, 2011 12:31 AM   Subscribe

What are some great films about disadvantaged/disenfranchised/non-traditional/non-English speaking students pursuing further education, encountering obstacles, overcoming those obstacles and succeeding?

I run a program for high school students from remote (Australian) Aboriginal communities that, among other things, introduces them to tertiary education. Along with the various activities we run already, I'd like to have a film night. I've been thinking of showing something along the lines of Will Smith's "Pursuit of Happyness", but I think this might be a bit heavy for 15-17 year olds.

Ideally, we'd show something that not only carries a message, but is entertaining as well. My other criteria are i) it doesn't have to be a mainstream blockbuster at all, but no subtitles as some (but not all) of the students struggle with English literacy and ii) needs to be specifically about education. Not Rocky or Ghandi, for example.

AskMe, what great films about non-traditional students making a go of education against the odds can you recommend? Extra triple bonus points if you can recommend something Australian.
posted by t0astie to Education (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Freedom Writers is definitely the sort of film you're looking for, but not Australian. I can't think of anything Australian off the top of my head, but I'll work on it.
posted by cholly at 12:50 AM on June 1, 2011

Stand and Deliver.
posted by holterbarbour at 1:23 AM on June 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

These are great films... But they're mostly about the the teacher's journey. (Inspiring for me though!) Didn't articulate this clearly (sorry - looking at those two films just made it gel now!) but looking for films like Happyness that are told from the perspective of the student who overcomes obstacles.
posted by t0astie at 1:44 AM on June 1, 2011

Probably not what you're looking for, but your question got me trawling through IMDB remembering Australian films.

Looking for Alibrandi
posted by panaceanot at 2:04 AM on June 1, 2011

Educating Rita.
posted by plep at 3:09 AM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, they aren't about tertiary education, but there's Akeelah and the Bee, and then there's Pride. Pride is again, a lot about the teacher's journey, though.

(p.s. It's Gandhi. The h sound is separately pronounced...)
posted by bardophile at 3:18 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good Will Hunting?
posted by slyrabbit at 3:39 AM on June 1, 2011

Pressure Cooker.
posted by Shebear at 4:08 AM on June 1, 2011

Seconding Educating Rita.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:14 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm hesitant to recommend this, because it's a total old-fashioned American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story, with all the political problems that entails, but there's a Lifetime TV movie called Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray story. If your kids are interested, Liz Murray has also written a memoir, which updates the story from the end of the movie. At the end of the movie, there's a note saying that she had left Harvard. She took some time off to take care of her dying father, but she has since gone back and graduated.
posted by craichead at 5:27 AM on June 1, 2011

Thirding Educating Rita.

And I can't recommend Rudy enough, which is almost as much about education as it is about football. Especially since it's based on a true story.

Dead Poet's society isn't about disadvantaged students, but the message is still good.
posted by Mchelly at 7:17 AM on June 1, 2011

Didn't articulate this clearly (sorry - looking at those two films just made it gel now!) but looking for films like Happyness that are told from the perspective of the student who overcomes obstacles.

Second Akeelah and the Bee, it's definitely from the perspective of the student.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:28 AM on June 1, 2011

Yeah, it's not about tertiary education, but Akeelah and the Bee is about the pursuit of knowledge, from the student's point of view, against obstacles and criticism.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:32 AM on June 1, 2011

How about these recent documentaries:

The Lottery
Liked a lot, as it chronicled 4 families trying to get into charter schools in NYC. Also didn't seemed overly biased against traditional schools.

Waiting For Superman
Similar to the Lottery (in fact films one of the exact same events), but I didn't like it as much because it sort of made villains out of traditional teachers and teacher unions and was a little too one-sided for me.

The Boys of Baracka
Really interesting. Four 12-year-old boys from one of the most violent ghettos in Baltimore, Maryland, are taken 10,000 miles away to an experimental boarding school in rural Kenya
posted by jander03 at 8:53 AM on June 1, 2011

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