Description from TIFF 2010 catalog by Thom Powers:

How can America save its education system? This is the question that lies at the heart of this Mavericks screening of the film Waiting for “Superman,” followed by an on-stage panel discussion with filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, educator Geoffrey Canada and computer maverick Bill Gates. The film is motivated by alarming signs that children are falling behind in basic skills even as spending has increased. Academy Award &”174;-winning director Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) lends a human face to the problem by following five children trying to navigate their way through the public school system. He deepens our understanding by interviewing key stakeholders and reformers in education.

One of the film’s standout figures is Geoffrey Canada, the creator of the Harlem Children’s Zone, an organization that’s shown demonstrable success at raising educational standards in an economically challenged New York neighbourhood. Growing up poor in the South Bronx, Canada remembers feeling that, as a child, only Superman could save him. Instead, Canada proved heroic himself, graduating from Harvard with a master’s degree in education and setting out to fix the nation’s schools. He thought it would take him about three years. That was in 1975. Waiting for “Superman” describes the multiple obstacles that stand in the way of improvement, including persistent neglect of schools known as “factories of failure” and rigid rules that prevent superintendents from firing bad teachers.

Our final guest, Bill Gates, has transitioned from his role as co-founder of Microsoft to work full-time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Starting out as a low-performing student, he credits his middle school teachers for pushing him forward. Now he’s made education reform a key target of his foundation, giving over $2 billion in grants to create better high schools.

Just as An Inconvenient Truth gave new urgency to climate change, Waiting for “Superman” will leave you fired-up and ready to improve education no matter where you live.

About the director:
Davis Guggenheim was born in St. Louis and studied American history at Brown University before moving to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking. In addition to directing episodes of television series such as NYPD Blue, 24 and Deadwood, he has directed the feature films Gossip (00) and Gracie (07). His previous documentaries include the Peabody Award-winning The First Year (01), the Academy Award-winning An Inconvenient Truth (06), A Mother’s Promise (08), It Might Get Loud (08), which screened at the Festival, and Waiting for “Superman” (10).