Enter Davis Guggenheim’s world in “Waiting for Superman.”
Feeling that the system needed a complete overhaul, Guggenheim set out to find answers about why public schools in this country have been on the decline for so long. However, unlike other documentaries out there, Guggenheim doesn’t waste time pointing the finger at anyone. Instead, he focuses on the children that suffer because of the negligence of everyone involved, showing that politics and bad decisions ultimately hurt the people who need the most help.
Following the exploits of a handful of bright kids looking to get into high quality schools, Guggenheim puts the travesty of the random lottery, the way most of the magnet and charter schools in the country pick their students, on full display. It isn’t a coincidence that only one of the children Guggenheim follows originally gets into the school that they want to, and one other just manages to get lucky and move up a few places on the waiting list before getting admission to the school of their choice.
Through this, we can see what Guggenheim’s reason for making this documentary is: something is wrong.
Utilizing credible and compassionate sources such as Geoffrey Canada and Bill Gates, Guggenheim is able to show the emotion behind the people who are desperate for change in the education system in this country. The archived footage featuring former presidents and their missteps along the way also make the documentary as bipartisan as possible and further cement the notions of people such as Canada and Gates- that as far as the United States educational system is concerned, things have gone south for a long time coming and something needs to be done to fix it. The numbers Guggenheim brings into the documentary show this decline better than anything Canada and Gates can say as well, and give the film more than enough credibility to stand on its own two feet, making for a one of a kind film that tells a poignant message.
Seeing what these prominent leaders have to say, while following these children around and seeing their simultaneous strength in their ability and faith in a system that doesn’t give them the slightest chance, is astounding. You’ll root for them throughout the film, hoping and praying that things work out for the best, knowing full-well that it won’t. It’s unfortunate that these talented children pay the price for the country’s inept policies, but when it’s all said and done, that’s the biggest statement the film makes.
Overall, the statement that Guggenheim makes is a bold one, but the fact that he’s able to support it, with raw facts, free of bias, is even bolder. As far as documentaries go, you’d be hard-pressed to find better. On top of that, it’s a far-reaching work of cinema that has a message- and is delivered loud and clear.