The buzz over Chalk (the movie) is very good among members of the Teacher Leaders Network. “Life as we’ve known it,” says one veteran teacher. “I’m living this!” exclaims a newbie. “Finally,” sighs a frequent critic of mythical teacher movies.
Chalk, which carries the tagline “Real teaching leaves a mark,” began appearing at film festivals more than a year ago. The San Jose Mercury described it as a “smart, funny, well-made movie” that adapts the documentary style of TV shows like The Office and full-length films like Best in Show. Filmed in an Austin, TX, high school, Chalk has won several awards, including Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Teachers who viewed the movie last spring in San Jose “seemed to appreciate the versimilitude of the characters’ struggles with students, self-doubt, administrative baggage and, at times, each other,” says the Mercury article. “The story rang true because director Mike Akel and co-star and co-writer Chris Mass have both spent time as teachers. The students are played by actual students from the school where Akel taught, and some smaller parts are played by staff members from that school.”
An admiring review in the LA Weekly referenced a topic that frequently comes up in our TLN online discussions: “(Chalk’s) best set pieces are like devastatingly effective pinpricks puncturing the Hollywood hot-air balloon of inspirational teacher/coach melodramas.”
We’re sure Chalk’s less romantic approach to the teaching life is an idea that’s lurked in the minds of many cinematic-minded teachers over the years. We enjoyed reading the viewer comments posted at the Internet Movie DataBase–some written by teachers who caught the film at a local festival.
The movie is now in limited release in theatres (which means you’ll probably need access to a city with an art theatre or a smart multiplex manager). We checked at NetFlix where the DVD release date is “unknown.” But 74 Netflix members (festival goers? students who appear in the film?) have already given Chalk an average 4 out of 5 stars.
You can watch a couple of Chalk trailers at YouTube. This one (2:40) centers on Mr. Stroope, who is determined to finally win the Teacher of the Year award “despite most of his students being just a teensy bit smarter than he is.” A shorter trailer (1:52) offers glimpses of most of the main teacher characters, including one who’s seated at the piano singing the haunting “No Child Left Behind Song.”