In December 2010, the city of Compton made history when some of its residents used the so-called parent trigger law, recently enacted in California, to try to take McKinley Elementary away from public administrators and turn it into a charter school. It's a complex story that's presented in simplified, inspirational form in "We the Parents," a first film by James Takata.
Within the brief running time of his no-budget documentary, the director provides a basic anatomy of the grass-roots organizing that went into the Compton initiative. He zeros in on a handful of impassioned mothers who became community leaders, and their stories, more suggested than told, are vivid examples of the empowerment that the legislation aimed to facilitate. But his film leaves many questions unanswered.
Concerned mainly with the mechanics of the undertaking, the movie is less an incisive chronicle than a galvanizing tool for parents who are, understandably, frustrated with the system. Though not as gung-ho for charter schools as Davis Guggenheim in 2010's "Waiting for Superman," Takata doesn't question their efficacy. Neither does he examine why Compton's parents, guided in their efforts by the advocacy group Parent Revolution, chose Celerity Education Group as their charter administrator, or why the Celerity school ultimately was installed in a church rather than at McKinley.
Underlying questions about the future of American public schools will need to be addressed elsewhere. "We the Parents" offers glimpses of an awakening. As a Compton pastor notes, "education is the civil rights issue of the day."
"We the Parents"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 1 minute
Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills