The streaming service Netflix recently announced the documentary Alma Matters, which talks about the competitive and often toxic world of the IIT dream. Based in IIT Kharagpur, the documentary will see several students coming forward with their stories and address issues like sexism, toxicity and even student suicides.
Ever since the announcement, a lot of people have expressed their excitement for the documentary. In anticipation of Alma Matters, let us look at some other acclaimed documentaries on education.
Richard E Robbins’ gripping documentary about nine school girls from nine countries(including India, Haiti, Sierra Leone etc) is an eye-opener for a lot of us who take education for granted. Girl Rising is about resilience in the face of resistance, and the amount of problems little girls have to overcome to just go to school. The documentary also made a lot of buzz because it features a star-studded cast of narrators including Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Priyanka Chopra, Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto among others.
Race to Nowhere
This 2009 Netflix documentary is the personal story of co-director Vicki Abeles who discovered that her daughter was falling sick due to the stress of her school and home-work. The film was able to convey the shock of a parent who finds out that a seemingly normal child can chronically fall sick due to stress. The film takes a deep dive into the cracks in the American education system. Since it is a mother’s story at the core, it is globally relatable.
One of the best documentaries till date, American Promise was filmed through the course of 13 years. Filmmaker duo and real life couple Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson filmed their son Idris and his best friend Seun, starting school at a New York prep-school. Throughout the years, we not only see the boys struggle with the cut-throat competitive nature of the prep-school, we also see the ramifications of them being the only two African American kids in the entire school. It is remarkable how many issues the film subtly talked about at once.
On the Way to School
On the Way to School is a story of how the act of going to school is one of bravery for many children. The documentary follows four kids, Samuel from India, Jackson from Kenya, Carlito from Argentina and Zhara from Morocco. To say they navigate geographical hindrances to go to school will be an understatement. Of course they are wading rivers and going through lion infested areas. But it is also a result of their social circumstances. On the Way to School has a simple premise, but it is extremely layered.
Waiting for ‘Superman’
As someone who does not live in the USA, it will be surprising to think that one can get admission in a school through a lottery process. But that happens, and according to Waiting for ‘Superman’ it is a crushing blow to many kids. The film follows five 10-year-olds and their families who are waiting to get into good chartered schools, because the alternate option can set a child’s future back for years. The inequality in the education system is jarring, specially considering how America is a first-world country.