The Lottery Madeleine Sackler

The Lottery Madeleine Sackler
The title of Madeleine Sackler's slanted, but professionally distanced, documentary refers to the annual random lottery system used to assign enrolment in Harlem's chartered school education system. Since there is such a high demand for the few coveted spots in these schools, which have statistically higher success rates and reading levels for students, this system is used to remove the idea of favouritism or discrimination in any sense. Beyond the peculiarity of limited privilege in a country that proclaims equal opportunity, this film assesses the bigger controversy surrounding the existence of chartered schools adjacent to traditional zoned schools with shockingly high illiteracy rates. Discussions and interviews amongst principals, local government officials, lottery hopefuls and members of the community bring to light the perspective of the charter system as a disrespectful mode of gentrification, despite the overwhelming number of families vying for their child's enrolment. While the structure of the documentary starts with four families hoping for spots in the respected Harlem Success Academy (HSA), the middle of the film smartly veers off into public perception and debate, showing emotional and counterproductive discussions between people on either side of the fence. Even elected officials, such as Maria del Carmen Arroyo, resort to personally insulting composed and articulate HSA founder Eva Moskowitz when she can't find any practical mode of refuting a well-made argument. It's somewhat embarrassing and speaks to a point made several times throughout the film, which is that this is about children being refused a good education because of adult bureaucracy and ego. While slight, provincial and lacking sufficient coverage of zoned school advocates to be entirely successful in its aims, Sackler's doc does inspire the intended thought in an easily comprehendible manner, which impresses on its own. The DVD comes with supplemental deleted scenes, along with the Tribeca Film Festival panel. (Breaking Glass)