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Waiting for “Superman” 

Directed by Davis Guggenheim (Paramount)

Guggenheim’s heartbreaking film, a Best Documentary contender that did not even get nominated---he won for An Inconvenient Truth---opens with an admission of white liberal guilt. The Los Angeles resident, married to actor Elisabeth Shue, drives past three public schools before depositing his children in a private one. But whatever his social standing, Guggenheim comes by his interest in education honestly---his first documentary was 2001’s The First Year, in which he followed a handful of first-time teachers. Here he throws statistical analysis---America spends more on one prisoner than one student---into the stories of New York children of varying talents and backgrounds trying to gain access to charter schools, with their small classes and no fees, via lottery. Some are more gifted than others, some are poorer, some are more broken, but they all want to learn, and a fucked-up system has made it nearly impossible. Guggenheim’s film wants to know why, and why we aren’t angrier about it.

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