Thursday, September 24, 2009

Race to Nowhere - at the Mill Valley Film Festival

I met Vicki Abeles, the producer of "Race to Nowhere" last year. A mutual friend put us together (thanks Liz!) after reading a Diablo Magazine article on homework. You can read that article here. It turns out that our husbands know each other, small world, and Vicki and I also learned we share a passion for educating people in our community about raising well-balanced children. Since meeting Vicki, I've been lucky enough to see her in action - making her film, promoting it, lecturing about it, networking about it. She has also included me as one of her Advisors to the film.

Diablo Magazine ran a short article on her recently. You can read that here. But in case you don't, here's a blurb:

Vicki Abeles was a high-powered attorney who practiced in the lucrative fields of corporate law and investment banking. Then, through friends, this Lafayette mother of three got the chance to help make a short film for education experts on how kids today are under intense pressure to succeed.

A career-switch lightbulb went off, and, with her new production company, Reel Link Films, Abeles entered the cash-starved field of documentary film. Like many others in this field, Abeles does not care about profits but about changing society.

With her first cinematic effort, she hopes to spark a national dialogue about the U.S. education system. She has seen how her kids and others suffer from being taught only what is covered on standardized tests, and how they are pushed to be superhigh achievers.

The school district my kids are in enrolled in (San Ramon Valley USD) promoted the film last year by allowing Vicki to show advanced screenings of it (in its various unfinished versions) followed by Q & A sessions with Vicki. These multiple public and private screenings were viewed by hundreds of parents, teachers and some students. The overwhelming response after viewing the documentary is usually something like, "Wow, what an eye opener! How can we change this type of thinking in our community? How can we help our kids?"

Race to Nowhere will hold its world premiere at the 32nd Mill Valley Film Festival October 10 and 18, 2009. You can get more information about the film festival and order tickets here. I just bought 2 tickets and I hope to see you there!

In case you can't attend, you can always visit the film's website and get information about future local screenings. You can even pre-order a copy of the DVD there. The film's website has a bunch of reading resources, website links, a blog comment forum, ideas for educators, parents and students, and much more. Check it out!


  1. I saw the film, yesterday, and was deeply moved. I am trying to do what I can in Walnut Creek, but the awareness just isn't there. Depending on which family of teachers one has, some sixth graders routinely spend hours, 2 hours (on a good night) and some times 6 hours a night on homework. I feel like making a report to CPS, on myself, for cooperating with this madness.

    Do you come to Adult Ed nights? We could use a voice like yours. Thank you.

  2. I, too, bought into it for too many years and am embarrassed and sad how many times my kids were brought to tears by my forcing them to do their (uninspired) homework. I am just glad that I finally stopped blaming them and started looking at the whole picture-the whole culture that includes extra-curriculars, school, sports, parents, tutors, peer pressure, etc.

    If you can get a school in your district to show Vicki's film (once it's out on DVD) and have a discussion afterward, that would be a good step in the right direction. Her film will include an educational packet that will help people facilitate discussion after viewing the film. Or, you could host a viewing in your own home, if you are more comfortable doing that.

    If you want to talk, email me: