In 2006, Davis Guggenheim teamed up with former Vice President Al Gore to direct the outstanding hit An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary let the world know that Guggenheim was more than a simple television director, he aimed to make a difference in this world with the tools that he had. Although it was his second documentary, it was the one that made audiences aware. Now with attention of America upon him he set his sight on the subject of his first documentary, the public American school system.
High Schools was a documentary that was released by Charles Guggenheim, Davis Guggenheim’s father, in 1983. In 2001 Davis Guggenheim directed The First Year, a documentary that followed five teachers. Both father and son have taken a strong interest in our school system.
“My father was my great teacher,” Guggenheim said in a phone interview. “The thing he always told me most was, no matter who you were you always deserved a good education.”
Waiting for ‘Superman’ is the beginnings of what Guggenheim and his cast hope is the beginning of a dialogue in America. Without a doubt our school system is broken, bureaucracy and unions choke any form of progression to the system. Guggenheim paints a light of what is happening and urges us to get more involved with this sick institution.
Hindered by the concept and application of tenure, we suffer from the bad process of awful teachers and the money spent dealing with them. This aspect of the film causes as much enlightenment as it does frustration. It also shows us the effects that the different US Presidents have made, although almost every President has said they were going to change the system, the system has been too big of a beast to reform.
The title of Waiting for ‘Superman’ is a nod in the direction of audiences and Americans. Waiting for a powerful outside force to come along and fix the problem is not going to get anything accomplished. It is up to the America people to all get involved and push for a new direction. Guggenheim’s documentary does a great job showing us that changes need to be made and where problems lay, but does not preach to us how we have to do that. Instead, he leaves it in our hands.
Going beyond the documentary, the production team put together many avenues for people to get involved and help try to be a part of the change in this system. It was something that Guggenheim tried and accomplished with An Inconvenient Truth.
“That is a great part of this country, we are always trying to get better,” Davis Guggenheim said.
Rated PG for some thematic material, mild language and incidental smoking.