Written and directed by Peter Nicks, co-written by Sean Havey and Kristina Motwani, and executive produced by Ryan Coogler. Oakland as a tantalizing case study. In a city that struggles with rising crime and health care woes, its public school systems aren’t exactly equipped to prepare youth for the travails of young adulthood.
Though this film has much to say, the main point it makes so vitally clear is that the concept of having a police force within schools is a self-fulfilling prophecy of harmful stereotypes. If you constantly push the perception on teenagers that they’re criminals, how can you be surprised when they turn to crime? It provides a solution to a consequence, stepping in when it’s already too late, rather than putting that funding towards setting their students on a positive path in the first place. The issue only deepens many layers further, especially when taking into consideration the rampant presence of racial profiling and immigration issues, showing how upsetting and triggering it can be for BAME students to have police in schools. That’s what makes it more impressive that these students were so committed to change, up against a force bigger than themselves and a prejudiced system, especially in their city.
These kids are inspiring to watch, they have an awareness, drive and dedication that isn’t often explored in cinema, particularly not real life examples. It’s fantastic to have such representation of a group of diverse, individual and charismatic teens striving to make a difference and to not only serve themselves but their community and the students that come after them. As well as the fact that it’s simply refreshing to have teenagers on film showing that they care about their education, bucking the cliché of listless, social media obsessed youths (even if they do use Instagram relentlessly throughout). It opens your eyes to what these kids go through and how the political and social landscape in 2020 impacted them, from Black Lives Matter to Trump to Covid, it’s a lot for any person to take in, let alone a teen with unlimited information being streamed right to them. The isolation was hard on everyone but they had to lose pivotal moments in their young lives that they’d looked forward to for years, especially in a country that puts such weight behind events like prom and graduation. It’s a minefield of emotional issues in a turbulent time of life and you don’t envy them having to go through it.
When the film delves into the BLM movement, it turns into almost hard to watch territory, seeing these events through their eyes is like experiencing them again for the first time. The full impact of seeing faces they can see themselves reflected in being murdered, tear gassed, beaten and mistreated, is impossible to quantify. However, the impressive thing that this documentary achieves is capturing all that poignancy without ever losing its youthfulness. There is a sincere hope amongst all the complex issues, watching them cheer on one another as they submit their college applications is a wonderful moment. It makes the film very accessible and easy to watch despite some heart-breaking moments. All its pieces flow extremely nicely together, it’s modern and young with a solid pacing to keep you invested. It says what it needs to say effectively and in a tone that perfectly matches its subjects.
Homeroom is an eye-opening documentary that lets its audience view recent events through the eyes of teens. It’s inspiring in their hope against adversity, their dedication and untapped potential, yet it’s also harrowing in how they’re impact by events outside of their control. These students set an impressive precedent for what can be achieved with the power of community, a joint voice and cause. Nicks manages to capture what was an intensely complicated time in a touching, powerful and youthful manner to ensure that it does justice to its smart, motivated and socially aware subjects.