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The Hobart Shakespeareans (2005)

Rafe Esquith , Ian McKellen , Mel Stuart  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Rafe Esquith, Ian McKellen, Michael York
  • Directors: Mel Stuart
  • Producers: Alex Rotaru, Mel Stuart, Chad Baron, Tamara Blaich
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: February 28, 2006
  • Run Time: 52 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000CRR3GA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,378 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Hobart Shakespeareans" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Filmmaker interview
  • Filmmaker biography

Editorial Reviews

The Hobart Shakespeareans is a delightful profile of one phenomenal teacher and his eager students who together touchingly demonstrate the power of education.

What happens in Rafe Esquith’s classroom defies the odds. With genuine passion and ironclad conviction, Esquith turns the Asian-American and Latino children of a violence-stricken central Los Angeles neighborhood on to the wonders of Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and mathematics. The Hobart Boulevard Elementary fifth-graders respond heartily, rattling off the names of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays or doing rapid-fire arithmetic in their heads. The children are refreshingly engaged as Esquith takes them to Washington, D.C. to visit national monuments, leads them on tours of college campuses, and implores them to work hard and believe in their own self-worth. At the end of the semester they pull together--with a little help from famous actors Ian McKellen and Michael York--their final triumph: a student production of Hamlet. Through tears and laughter, this endearing troupe casts aside the conventional wisdom about the failures of education in the United States.

Academy Award-nominated director Mel Stuart deftly probes the secrets of Esquith’s winning strategy in a story as inspiring and rewarding as it is exceptional.

DVD Features: Filmmaker Interview; Filmmaker Biography; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
One teacher takes a group of kids from the roughest neighborhoods and not only gets them to put on a production of Hamlet each year but teaches them to learn, grow and believe in themselves, day in, day out. It isn't easy and the challenges are shown in detail but this teacher also shares his philosophy - and what a philosophy it is! He admits that he failed in his first years of teaching, watching as his former students failed in middle school.

But somehow he recreated his teaching method and, in the process, has inspired countless children, gotten actors like Ian McKellan and Michael York to visit his classroom (!) and taught children who'd had teachers give up on them that they were not doomed to failure. If more teachers were like this one, what a future generation we'd have!

Great family film....great film, period.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and moving January 9, 2006
Format:DVD
This PBS film should be viewed by everyone. It is motivational and inspiring. It truely defeats the "what can I do I'm only one person?" attitude. Makes you wish that all people had the same attitude as Rafe Esquith; the world would be a better place.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If those Middle Schoolers can do it, then you can, too November 10, 2006
Format:DVD
I am a high school English teacher. My students are always reluctant to tackle Shakespeare so I show this DVD first. I am not sure that this DVD inspires my students, but it does squelch the claim that Shakespeare is too difficult.

This DVD is extremely well produced and is very engaging.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most moving film I've ever seen. August 19, 2006
Format:DVD
This documentary was so inspiring that I sent it to my parents. None of us are in the education field but I just had to share it. It's what education should be, and I hope every child gets a fraction of this sort of learning, loving school environment. I can't recommend it enough.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, moving October 10, 2008
Format:DVD
If only we had more teachers like this truly dedicated man. He has rejected many offers of a "better" position to stay in his same role at the Hobart school teaching 9- and 10-year-olds from a poor district in LA. In the year that was filmed, the kids work up and put on a performance of Hamlet - and these are kids who, when Rafe visited their families, he found that no-one even knew who Shakespeare was! The kids comment how at the beginning of the project they could not understand a word. He worked tirelessly to bring them along to the point where Sir Ian McKellen, visiting, says that they all clearly understand everything they are saying "which is not the case with all Shakespeare actors!"

But the play is really a peg on which to hang Rafe's overarching philosophy, which is one of challenge, of opening minds - trips to Washington and UCLA to light the spark of ambition, for instance. In fact, Hamlet itself does not occupy that much of the time of the film. More attention is paid to Rafe's focus on teaching the children to believe in themselves, to respect each other, to work hard. Yet he is realistic: a possibly surprising moment is when he acknowledges that yes, some children will be left behind and there is not much to be done about it. He knows his class will contain three groups: those will readily "get it," those who may or may not decide to join in, and those who he just won't be able to reach. His hope is to shift many of the second group into the first. Then, with that majority, the tone of the classroom will discourage the "non-participants" from making trouble.

The documentary focuses strongly on the positive. I'm sure there were disheartening scenes that could have been included. But the result is a really heartwarming story, wonderful to watch...and the children are adorable. Think where they come from - and next time someone talks dismissively about "inner-city kids," remember this film.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much ado about Rafe and the Hobart Shakespeareans October 13, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I've read both of Rafe Esquith's books There are no shortcuts and Teach like your hair is on fire. I was excited to find out that there was also a documentary out on him and his teaching methods and determination entitled "The Hobart Shakespeareans." Upon seeing his teaching style up close, I continue to be awed by this teacher who works 12+ hour days with students from racially mixed backgrounds in an inner city neighborhood. Yet his work pays off-his students typically score in the best 5% of students taking the SATs, and get accepted at both Ivy league and other colleges all over thw world. Rafe's students get to attend national monuments and tours of college campuses due to funds from his private, non-profit organization "Hobart Shakespeareans." At the end of every school year, his students put together a Shakespearean play in which they act, do sets for, music for, etc. It is a moving documentary of the work of the most highly decorated teacher in the history of teaching. It was wonderful to see what his students can do in and out of the classroom, and to see what Rafe seems to really be like. I am in awe of this man, and boy do I wish I had his energy.
My only fault with this documentary is that I wish the entire production of "Hamlet" by the HObart Shakespeareans had been shown as an option on the special features of this DVD. I would have really liked to have seen the entire play that the kids worked so hard on. The clips do not do it justice. That is the only reason I gave this work four stars rather than five.
This DVD will inspire anyone who works with children to push themselves more-it is amazing what one person anywhere accomplishes!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie and so inspiring to today's teachers!!
Published 1 month ago by Amelia M Bogda
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
How wonderful and innovative. If you can't inspire with this one, you wonder what it would take!
Published 1 month ago by John V. Diaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting & Amazing, I saw this on PBS about 4 years ago, and it...
Among other things, I have a Calif-Teaching-Credential, and taught briefly in San Diego & LA. I find the Bard' a bit hard to get into, but am facinated by the work attributed to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Z. G Zinzel
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should own this one
This restores your faith in the human spirit. I have watched it so many times that I wore out my old VHS copy.
Published 8 months ago by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a great show
I was really excited to get this DVD before school started again. I was not disappointed. What an example! Read more
Published 12 months ago by Rose Hammon
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
This inspiring documentary features the fifth-grade classroom of teacher Rafe Esquith, who clearly makes a difference in his students' lives. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Joyce
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid
All of the books that Rafe has written are wonderful. I am doing classroom economics because I read about it in one of his books. Read more
Published 19 months ago by MS FACS teacher
5.0 out of 5 stars quality of product
The DVD was in excellent condition. I have been very pleased with 'Movie Mars'. It was mailed quickly with great care. Read more
Published on November 25, 2011 by cautious shopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Artists should be ashamed of themselves...
...if they have not distributed copies of this DVD to their family, friends, and legislators.

"The Hobart Shakespeareans" does a very good job of illustrating that... Read more
Published on November 6, 2011 by Mark Pearce
5.0 out of 5 stars Great message
This is a wonderful, thought-provoking book that educators and future teachers should read. It is inspiring, compassionate, and discusses how to give students the resources and... Read more
Published on September 3, 2011 by BR
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