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The Lottery (2010)

Geoffrey Canada , Eva Moskowitz , Madeleine Sackler  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Geoffrey Canada, Eva Moskowitz, Cory Booker, Joel Klein, Susan Taylor
  • Directors: Madeleine Sackler
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Great Curve Films
  • DVD Release Date: August 10, 2010
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003XSTS2W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,072 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Review

The ginger stepchild of President Obama's election platform, it seems that this country's broke-ass education system is finally stepping up for its media moment. On the heels of a recent 60 Minutes piece on Washington, D.C.'s SEED school and New York Times Magazine cover story focused on education reform comes The Lottery, a precise, impassioned look at the battle between zone and charter schools in Harlem. Director Madeleine Sackler interweaves the stories of four charter hopefuls and their families with an exploration of an issue whose politics have grown so complex that they squiggle even partisan lines. Sackler finds personal, persuasive points of entry for key factors in the debate: Statistics contrasting the annual amounts spent on a child's education and a prisoner's housing are followed by the account of a school lottery entrant's incarcerated father, who laments his lack of choice as much as the choices he made. An electrifying community meeting finds Harlem Success president Eva Moskowitz both vilified and heralded as "our Obama"; by local parents, as the unions depend on such poorly understood class and neighborhood tensions to maintain the status quo. Sackler reframes education reform as a moral issue, and it's impossible to look at the fallen faces of kids turned away from a school of all things and disagree. --The Village Voice

'What's funny," says Madeleine Sackler, "is that I'm not really a political person." Yet the petite 27-year-old is the force behind "The Lottery" an explosive new documentary about the battle over the future of public education opening nationwide this Tuesday. In the spring of 2008, Ms. Sackler, then a freelance film editor, caught a segment on the local news about New York's biggest lottery. It wasn't the Powerball. It was a chance for 475 lucky kids to get into one of the city's best charter schools (publicly funded schools that aren't subject to union rules). "I was blown away by the number of parents that were there," Ms. Sackler tells me over coffee on Manhattan's Upper West Side, recalling the thousands of people packed into the Harlem Armory that day for the drawing. "I wanted to know why so many parents were entering their kids into the lottery and what it would mean for them." And so Ms. Sackler did what any aspiring filmmaker would do: She grabbed her camera. Her initial aim was simple. "Going into the film I was excited just to tell a story,"; she says. "A vérité film, a really beautiful, independent story about four families that you wouldn't know otherwise" in the months leading up to the lottery for the Harlem Success Academy. But on the way to making the film she imagined, she "stumbled on this political mayhem really like a turf war about the future of public education." Or more accurately, she happened upon a raucous protest outside of a failing public school in which Harlem Success, already filled to capacity, had requested space. "We drove by that protest," Ms. Sackler recalls. "We were on our way to another interview and we jumped out of the van and started filming." There she discovered that the majority of those protesting the proliferation of charter schools were not even from the neighborhood. They'd come from the Bronx and Queens. "They all said 'We're not allowed to talk to you. We're just here to support the parents." But there were only two parents there, says Ms. Sackler, and both were members of Acorn. And so, "after not a lot of digging," she discovered that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) had paid Acorn, the controversial community organizing group, "half a million dollars for the year." (It cost less to make the film.) Finding out that the teachers union had hired a rent-a-mob to protest on its behalf was "the turn for us in the process." That story of self-interested adults trying to deny poor parents choice for their children provided an answer to Ms. Sackler's fundamental question: "If there are these high-performing schools that are closing the achievement gap, why aren't there more of them?" The reason is what Eva Moskowitz, founder of the Harlem Success Academy network and a key character in the film, calls the "union-political-educational complex." That's a fancy term for the web of unions and politicians who defend the status quo in order to protect their jobs. In the course of making "The Lottery," Ms. Sackler got to know the nature of that coalition intimately. "On day one, of course, I was very interested in all sides. I was in no way affiliated." From the beginning, she requested meetings with then UFT President Randi Weingarten, or anyone representing the union position. They refused. Harlem's public schools weren't much more accessible. "It was easier to film in a maximum security prison," something Ms. Sackler did to interview a parent "than it was to film in a traditional public school." Viewers still get a sense of the union's position, but it comes from the mouths of some unsavory New York pols. Take, for example, a scene from the film featuring a City Council hearing... --The Wall Street Journal

"The Lottery" is one of the more persuasive documentaries of recent months. It deals with the issue of charter schools in New York City's Harlem, about their great success and about the families that wait in hope of the annual lottery, by which children gain admittance. Three thousand apply for fewer than 500 openings. They're called "charter" schools because they operate according to a five-year charter with the city or state, and if they don't get results at the end of that period, they're closed. Though funded by government money, they operate outside the teachers unions. The school year and the class days are longer, and teachers who are underperforming are fired. According to the documentary, it's almost impossible to get rid of a bad teacher under the union system, and even when it happens, the process costs the city approximately $250,000. From a distance, this might seem like a dry subject for a documentary, but as filmmaker Madeleine Sackler makes clear, this is a matter of life and death to the parents. Aside from the charter schools, the public education system in Harlem is a disaster. Out of the 23 non-charter schools, 19 have fewer than half the students reading at grade level. Thus the lottery could very well determine the entire course of a child's life - even its length. The schools under the regular system are factories of failure and incubators of crime. So you'd think that the successful model established by Eva Moskowitz, a mother of three who founded the first charter schools in Harlem, should be the educational road map for the city of New York. But no. The documentary shows the stranglehold that the teachers union has on politicians, particularly Democratic politicians. The arrogance and ignorance of some of these politicians is galling, particularly in the scene in which Moskovitz testified before an education panel. Fortunately, some Democratic politicians, such as Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, are bucking the trend. By the time the lottery takes place, viewers understand all that's riding on it. You look at all these beautiful kids, with all the potential in the world, and every expectation for a great life, and you know that at most one-sixth of them will come out of the room with a fighting chance. That shouldn't be. --The San Francisco Chronicle

Product Description

In a country where 58% of African American 4th graders are functionally illiterate, The Lottery uncovers the failures of the traditional public school system and reveals that hundreds of thousands of parents attempt to flee the system every year. The Lottery follows four of these families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery. Out of thousands of hopefuls, only a small minority will win the chance of a better future. Directed by Madeleine Sackler and shot by award-winning cinematographer Wolfgang Held, The Lottery uncovers a ferocious debate surrounding the education reform movement. Interviews with politicians and educators explain not only the crisis in public education, but also why it is fixable. A call to action to avert a catastrophe in the education of American children, The Lottery makes the case that any child can succeed.

Customer Reviews

Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It should be a requirement for parents
I like it cause it was helpfully for children and parents, that use the school system as a child care center. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jose McPherson
5.0 out of 5 stars The following review will review this movie by using urban education...
“The Lottery is a documentary released in 2010 and it was directed by Madeleine Slacker who has very good understanding and much of experience on the political and emotional... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Aris Zafeiratos
5.0 out of 5 stars End the Gov't Monopoly Over the 1st Round of Education Dollars!
The faces on the parents and kids speak volumes. The gov't monopoly over the first round of education dollars is vile. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Cicero Brian
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary About Harlem Success Schools
This is a wonderful documentary. I wont give it 5 stars though, because it doesn't comprehensively cover the opposition. Read more
Published 10 months ago by I. Ojeda
5.0 out of 5 stars A Touch of Reality
This dvd is a window of what children must go through in order to find a level playing field in education when born into a life on the other side of the tracks. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Gratefulinflorida
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me cry
Many of the other reviews have already outlined the content of the movie, so I won't do so in my review. I will say though that this documentary certainly had my attention. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jessica Weleski
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative!
For those of us unfamiliar to the debate and purpose of Charter Schools-this video clarifies that. Additionally, viewers get the understanding that education reform is taking a... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Teach2Me
4.0 out of 5 stars Charter School President
As I worked with a team to develop a Charter School I discovered this gem. If it doesn't bring tears to your eyes you aren't human.
Published 21 months ago by William Crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars The lotttery winners!
Good documentary of a complex subject! Seckler is a competent documentarian who brings clarity to the challenges of NYC schools.
Published 23 months ago by Rjsulllivan
3.0 out of 5 stars Misleading
The Lottery is extremely misleading because it casts all charter schools in a positive light. The movie fails to mention that most charter schools are ran by individuals with no... Read more
Published on June 13, 2012 by William G. Adams
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