Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 1:49 pm 
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Bay Area filmmaker and two-time Golden Gate Award winner Katie Galloway’s documentary The Pushouts focuses on a former West Oakland, California drug dealer and gang member called Victor Rios who has become a university professor and now seeks to redirect young people at risk after leaving high school without graduating. He calls them "pushouts" rather than "dropouts," because he feels they are forced out of school, rather than leaving by choice. Now a professor at UC Santa Barbara, with a wife seeking tenure and three kids, Rios and his mentor dedicate their lives to motivating young Mexican and African-American teens to realize their potential.

This little film has a lot of heart and contains touching footage of the present as well as some surprising moments on film of Victor Rios' earlier life when he was in school. There was a teacher called Ms. Russ who believed in the students others thought were going nowhere. A group of teachers negotiated a gang-based dispute Rios had while in school and that helped turn him around. During the film, he is asked to go to lead a session in the program called Yo! Watts! in Watts, California. This seems to lead to an "existential crisis" (his words) because he questions how he can help when he there for only a little while, and then goes back to his nice house and nice life in Santa Barbara.

But footage of the Watts program, designed to help pushed back young people open up in a place of trust about their pains and self-doubts, and regain confidence through training sessions in journaling, algebra, and rope climbing. The film shows these intimate and brave and touching activities. The message is that someone like Rios, who has "made it out" of ghetto life to be a smart person doing well, is uniquely qualified to help young people whom the system is trying to reject and cause to fail. He himself realizes he can do this, and so he keeps in touch with his own past. "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it," is Promise 3 in AA. It is an important message. This is a touching and enlightening little film.

Katie Galloway won the SFIFF Golden Gate Award for Bay Area Documentary Feature for The Return (2016). Her other films include Prison Town, USA (2007) and Better This World (SFIFF 2011), which won the GGA for Best Documentary Feature as well as the Writers Guild of America’s USA’s Best Documentary Screenplay prize

The Pushouts, 56 mins., debuted at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC. It was screened for this review at the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it was shown in a free community screening.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at6:00 p.m. at Victoria Theatre


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