Sundance 2021 Review: HOMEROOM

“Community begins with family.” 

A still from Homeroom by Peter Nicks, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sean Havey.

Directed by Peter Nicks, this film is the last part of a three-part narrative on American cities shown through their public institutions. We are invited into the lives of the graduating class of 2020 at Oakland High School as they navigate their everyday lives during a time of turmoil in the school district and COVID-19 closures. 

At no point does the camera feel overly present, which allows for the viewer to truly adopt a fly on the wall perspective for the whole film. We are able to witness the truth of these students’ lives as they face obstacles like gentrification, immigration, police brutality, budget cuts, and of course, COVID-19. We are witness to their real-life interactions, as well as how they use and learn from social media during important life moments. 

As I was watching, I recalled my own high school experiences. These students were the students at my own school, these were the friends and peers I grew up with. Often we hear about the struggles of students of color as statistics, as impersonal minor news headlines on local channels – which is why I thought this documentary was so important. This documentary highlights where school districts have failed not only Oakland High, but other underfunded schools that have been forced to accept and fund cops on campus. It frames social media, not as a waste of time as so many other documentaries have before, but as a tool to help educate and spread awareness of social justice issues such as Black Lives Matter.

This documentary ends on such an uplifting note of triumph for the graduating class, that I have to rate it a 4 out of 5 stars. It truly is a story that shows the resilience of the youth and shows the promise of a brighter future for everyone. 


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