Contributed by Jeremy Mathews
Two very different documentaries at this year’s Sundance look at what parents are willing to do for their children, and how much they sacrifice in the hopes that the next generation will have a better life.
Waiting for Superman—the
new documentary from An Inconvenient
Truth director Davis Guggenheim—follows five personal stories to give
meaning to its examination of the United States’ public school system’s
Waiting for Superman
is full of sad stories, but also finds a way to inspire hope. Solutions have
started to reveal themselves. We just need to find a way around the red tape
and implement them.
The Chinese documentary Last
Train Home tells an even sadder story, in which a family must remain
separated for the sake of education. It follows three years in the lives of a
married couple and their two kids, who are raised by their grandmother while
their parents try to earn the money for their education. The relationship
between the parents and teenage daughter is particularly strained. She breaks
their hearts when she choses to follow them to the workforce instead of taking
advantage of the education they worked so hard for her to access.
Director Lixin Fan not only reaches a level of extreme intimacy with the family, but captures their story with remarkable visual grace. The film is so well photographed that if I didn’t know better, I might have taken it for a drama. From the first shot to the last, Fan shows a visual precision that many dramatic directors at Sundance could only dream to display. And those guys weren't shooting on the fly at a train station overflowing with stranded passengers, either.