Although those packing the house at the Oriental Theatre were among the first Milwaukeeans to see Davis’ Guggenheim’s much-discussed “Waiting for Superman,” the rest of Milwaukee still has to wait.
The screening was one of two advance sell-outs for the sophomore edition of the Milwaukee Film Festival and was followed by a panel discussion that drew an overflow crowd across the street at the Kenilworth Building.
There was a long line up Farwell as folks waited to get in to grab seats for “Waiting for Superman,” which focuses on public education. Guggenheim was previously best known for directing “An Inconvenient Truth.” He also directed “It Might Get Loud,” reviewed here last year.
Inside, there were almost no empty seats and the capacity crowd cheered and jeered and clapped during portions of the film, which has been described by some as pro-charter school, anti-teacher and anti-teachers’ unions.
Going into it with those notions swirling around my head, I found that I agreed with some of those takes and not others.
Early in the film, I was reminded of the time I approached bassist Richard Davis for an interview and he asked if I was a jazz musician. When I replied that I was not, he said, “then why would I want to talk to you?”
When Guggenheim says that he drives past three public schools each morning to take his kids to private school, I briefly understood Davis’ point. As a public school dad, committing my family to be a positive force within the system, why would I want to be preached at by a private school dad who chooses to throw rocks at it from outside?
I softened my stance a bit when Guggenheim later says after we ask ourselves if we did the right thing and if we did enough, we must ask ourselves, “what are our obligations to other people’s children?”
Of course, everyone will decide the answers for themselves, just as you will decide for yourself about Guggenheim’s film and his personal conclusions.
But what is crystal clear is that — at least thanks in part to “Waiting for Superman,” though certainly not entirely due to the film — people are again talking about public education in America. And that’s a positive step.
Did you see the film yesterday? If so, share your thoughts below. But please, no spoilers for the folks that didn’t see it yet.
There will be another preview screening of the film on Tuesday, Oct. 12 at the Oriental before the film officially opens later that week in Milwaukee.