The Urban-School Film

Open Access
Rowles, Benjamin Leif
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Iyunolu Folayan Osagie, Thesis Supervisor
  • Christopher Gervais Reed, Honors Advisor
  • English
  • Film
  • Education
  • Urban Schools
  • American
  • Cinema
  • Inequality
  • Race
  • Poverty
  • Movies
  • Film Theory
  • Cultural Studies
  • Schools
  • Teaching
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.