The Urban-School Film

Open Access
Author:
Rowles, Benjamin Leif
Area of Honors:
English
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Iyunolu Osagie, Thesis Supervisor
  • Christopher Reed, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • English
  • Film
  • Education
  • Urban Schools
  • American
  • Cinema
  • Inequality
  • Race
  • Poverty
  • Movies
  • Film Theory
  • Cultural Studies
  • Schools
  • Teaching
Abstract:
This study analyzes the politics of representation in recent urban-school films released in the United States since the year 2000. It first examines fictional films, finding that directors’ adherence to exceptionalist narratives precludes a systemic view of educational inequality. Seeking alternatives, it turns to education documentaries and “quasimentaries,” which provide a more holistic picture of the American school system but, by avoiding exceptionalism, may deter general audiences. Finally, the study concludes with discussion of HBO’s "The Wire" and asks whether viewer expectations impose limits on the potential of critical education films. Drawing upon cultural studies and film theory, the author makes a case for nuance in representations of high-poverty education.