“I was in prison before I was even born.” So begins the story of Dr. Victor Rios who, by 15, was a high school “dropout" and gang member with multiple felony convictions and a death wish. But when a teacher’s quiet persistence, a mentor’s moral conviction, and his best friend’s murder converge, Rios’s path takes an unexpected turn.
Shaken to the core by the violent death he witnessed, Victor reaches out to a teacher he trusts. She tells him, “we’ll be here for you, but you need to do the work.” With her guidance and his mentor’s support, Victor graduates with his class and goes on to college. Eventually, he earns a Ph.D in sociology and becomes a UC professor.
Nearly two decades later, Rios gets a call from his high school mentor Martin Flores. “Hey, hotshot professor, I need you to come down to Watts this summer—bring a team—and work with my kids.” Flores is the director of Yo!Watts, a youth center dedicated to helping students who have been pushed out of high schools because of poverty, family trauma, and failing public schools.
After some soul-searching, Rios decides he has to go to Watts and give back to the mentor who helped save his life. He brings a group of volunteer super mentors to work with Martin Flores in a summer program for forty young people, they call ‘Project Grit.” In national statistics they are called “dropouts,” but the youth at Yo!Watts are actually “pushouts,” trying hard to stay enrolled and graduate. They are part of the one in three Latino and Black students around the nation who do not graduate each year. And two thirds of these youth, according to national data, will end up in the criminal justice system. Victor Rios and Martin Flores come together again after so many years to find ways to challenge this grave social injustice.
The Pushouts provides a deeply revealing lens onto the millions of young low-income, people of color living at the margins of failure in our country who offer so much promise to society if only they are given the opportunity to succeed. Through the intensely emotional verité scenes from Yo!Watts, the powerful archival footage of Rios as a vulnerable teen at Berkeley High, and the rich anecdotes he shares in an intimate interview, Victor Rios’ surprising life story reveals just how much we lose as a society with each young person who is “pushed out” and forgotten.
World Premiere: FULL FRAME West Coast Premiere: SF International Film Festival, April 2018
From Tweety Bird to Bow Wow, double dutch to chat rooms, Daddy’s girls to first deceptions, watch as Ariana, Isha, Rosie, and Esme let go of childhood and fumble - or sprint - toward an uncertain future. This is puberty and for each of these girls of color, it’s a whirlwind of change and new choices. Without flinching, Going on 13 enters their world as they negotiate the precious, precarious moments between being a little girl and becoming a young woman.
"Tender, sweet, honest and foremost REAL in its depiction of girlhood. I teared up at a couple of moments, was aghast at others (generation gap here), and laughed out loud at those moments when it was clear that some experiences during puberty are pretty much the same for every woman on earth." -Leslie Fields-Cruz, Director of Programming, National Black Programming Consortium
"Inspiring, funny, messy…it brought tears to my eyes." -Tricia Creason-Valencia, youth advocate and educator
"This riveting documentary follows four girls through school and home life in California's Bay Area, from age 9 to age 13 and beyond. While life deals up different particular hardships and hurdles for each girl, in the end, we feel confident that each of these girls turned women are solid, stable, smart, resilient, and, most importantly, loved. A must-see for gender studies, psychology, or education curricula. Every college library should own this DVD." -Melanie Bishop, Associate Professor, Women's Studies, Prescott College, AZ
Teacher Like Me is a multi-media documentary following 4 teachers in training in their daily lives—at home, at school, and in the classroom teachings. Interspersed between vérité́ scenes, we hear from our subjects’ friends, family members, fellow classmates, and program staff, as well as the subjects themselves. The students are the experts of their own lives and it is through their voices that the viewer begins to appreciate what a leap of faith it is for them to work towards repairing some of the same systemic failures that they themselves faced as public school students.
Teacher Like Me is part of a multi-pronged transmedia project that also includes (1) a feature documentary with short pieces created for multiple audiences; (2) an interactive website (called: The WHO Question) presenting short videos expressing the experiences and insights of teachers, parents and students in Denver, New Orleans, Chicago and New York -asking who do we need as teachers?; (3) a mobile app for students to access local alternative teacher training programs; (4) a traveling installation of photography, short videos, conversations, and gatherings with local communities struggling to recruit and retail teachers of color.
Co-Producer: Katherine Svasiskas Editor: Corey Ohama Director of Photography: CB Smith-Dahl Production Assistant: Leilani Diaz