Review: 'Homeroom' a Vital Cinéma-Vérité Document

by Karin McKie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday August 12, 2021

'Homeroom'
'Homeroom'  (Source:Hulu)

The students of the All City Council want the police out of the Oakland Unified School District. They want equal representation on the school board, as well. And the seniors can't wait to graduate in spring 2020.

Peter Nick's "Homeroom," his third documentary about Oakland, California, carefully and skillfully records a typical year in the United States, from bustling autumn high school activities to the unexpected appearance of the novel coronavirus in March.

Oakland High School is a microcosm of America: Multicultural, multilingual, and fed up with resources being funneled to campus cops rather than to educational programs. Seen primarily through the eyes of student leaders Mica Smith-Dahl and undocumented Denilson Garibo, the 90-minute cinéma-vérité captures current youth culture, from pronoun proclamations to the ubiquitous nature of smart phones. Two other students record entries for their vlog to document their final year.

Oakland High School navigates the hope and horror that was 2020.

The phones also show the students videos of the violence against Black bodies across the nation, then gather them together to join the Black Lives Matter protests to remember Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. The flashlight functions illuminate the overflowing crowd.

The students make compelling arguments for "Pencils Not Police," as one protest sign says, and a student adds that "cops care more about keeping us in check than protecting us." Here in Oakland, where the Black Panthers were founded, BIPOC, Latinx, and Asian students are quite aware of, and work to end, the school-to-prison pipeline. They represent the 36,000 learners in their community who don't want to be the only Alameda County school district with its own police force.

The film is a bittersweet snapshot of a year full of promise and pain, hope and horror, sickness and a modicum of healing. "Homeroom" is a hella important document of the legacy of 2020.


"Homeroom" premieres August 12 on Hulu.

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com