‘Homeroom’ Review: Salutations for the Class of 2020
On their first day of school in 2019, members of the 12th grade class at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., Eagerly awaited Instagram posts and a year of listening to teachers buzzing about math. and the rules of the class. More committed classmates like Denilson Garibo, a student representative of the governing board, might have predicted that the year would include organizing for social justice. But it would have been difficult for the Class of 2020 to predict the changes the Covid-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests would bring to their lives. This unprecedented year is captured in truth style in the heartfelt documentary “Homeroom”.
The film maintains a tight structure, starting on the first day of school and ending on graduation day. Director Peter Nicks shows these students to be socially engaged and reflective, and his camera patiently watches as teens express their expectations of their education. School board meetings become a central feature of the film, as Denilson pushes for policy changes, including a motion to remove police officers from Oakland schools.
Nicks doesn’t disrupt his observations to introduce each student by name, and there aren’t any talking heads interviews to put the action on pause. The montage finds what is harmonious in the way these teenagers express themselves, creating the impression of a class speaking with a unified voice. When the pandemic forces students into sudden isolation, the loss of their collective energy dampens the momentum of the film, and the contemporaneity of these events means that there is little suspense or surprise in the second half of the film.
But, like a degree, it’s easy to imagine how the rewards from this carefully watched documentary could stack up with just a little bit of time.
Unclassified. Duration: 1h30. Watch on Hulu.
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