TIFF Next Wave 2014: I Learn America Review

I Learn America

I Learn America

Focusing on five recent immigrants, 3 in their senior year, at New York City’s International High School at Lafayette, Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng’s documentary I Learn America takes on the traditional adolescent growing pains, while focusing on the challenges of navigating a new culture and language. The filmmakers’ gain an impressive amount of intimate access that allows the audience to better know these newcomers as they forge friendships and face difficult adjustments both at home and in the school community. I Learn America becomes much bigger than the story of a high school and its unique student body as it begins to reflect the entire melting pot that is New York.

The students, Sandra, Sing, Brandon, Itrat and Jennifer, each have their own vastly different experiences that led them to the school and have been picked to show the vast multicultural congregation that make up the students of International. While all of the kids prove engaging in their own way, Sandra and Sing emerge as the real discoveries here. Sing ‘s tale is one of poverty, struggle  and scrappiness that occasionally results in physical altercations and some resistance to teacher intervention. Sandra is bursting with energy and determined to do things her way, leading her to become of the school most loved students.

Funny, engaging and thought provoking, I Learn America is an effective film that reminds the audience of what the human spirit is capable of, and will have audiences cheering on the film’ subjects by the end. (Kirk Haviland)

Screens

Sunday, February 16th, 2:00pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox


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