This insightful documentary follows five students at an ultra-competitive high school, where the already stressful college applications process takes on frenzied dimensions.
Anyone with wistful memories of their high school years as a time of carefree fun may be taken aback by the students at San Francisco’s Lowell High School, a bastion of academic excellence where being a “nerd” is a badge of honor, nearly everyone seems to vie for a spot at an elite college, and the Big Man on Campus is a Rubik’s Cube-solving violin prodigy with early acceptance to Harvard. Director Debbie Lum followed five Lowell students over the course of one academic year, capturing their hopes and fears as they juggle the exhaustion and agonizing uncertainty of college admissions with unique, often complicated personal lives. Lowell’s student body is almost 70% Asian American, and Try Harder! also provides an eye-opening look at the roles of race and anti-Asian bias in college admissions. Observing a system designed to place young people in prescribed boxes, Lum is keen to reveal her subjects as individuals, with vibrant personalities and passions that standardized test scores or report cards could never reveal. TRY HARDER! is also a heartfelt and often humorous tribute to its subjects’ infectious optimism and resilience.
PFF30 VIRTUAL CINEMA: this title will be available starting October 28 on our virtual platform, watch.filmadelphia.org
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