6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
In every classroom across America there was some variation of the chair in the corner of the room with the dunce cap sitting on top of the chair waiting for the next wayward child to take their seat in the punishment chair. Never has a piece of furniture perhaps served struck such fear amongst children or commanded as much respect as the "time-out" chair in the American educational system.
And just as the classroom setting might have the dunce chair for a poorly behaving young child to go sit in, documentaries have their own set of a dunce chair. However, documentarians need not worry about scrunching down into a small piece of childhood furniture, rather, they must ensure their own work is interesting and informative for fear of having a critical movie review written about their work.
Unfortunately for those involved in the film, Class Act is being sent to the corner chair.
Directed by Sara Sackner, Class Act looks to the American educational system with a critical glance with respect to the lack of value and emphasis that is being put upon the arts aspect of a child's educational development. While certainly the topic is an interesting one, perhaps it is too narrow of a focus as the larger issue at hand really is that the American students are not having enough money invested in their education as a whole.
Released in 2006, the film attempts to correlate the importance upon having a well established arts program directly to the success or lack thereof that a child will experience in school. The movie tries to simplify the equation of what education is all about to a belief amongst at least the director that a child without arts will not succeed and a child with arts will rise above the rest. Again, this narrow approach might work for the purposes of the movie but certainly falls short in a practical sense.
And while the movie does a decent job reaching out to people across the spectrum of both education and the arts, the movie's main focus is on a Miami Beach drama teacher named Jay Jensen and the work that he has done with the children that he has mentored. Jensen's students both past and present, who include successful actors like Andy Garcia, formed a unique bond with their drama instructor and many of them credit their professional career success directly back to the work that Jensen was capable of.
But again the leap is once again taken to then link the success of their professional careers then back to the arts because had the arts not been around to be taught, then the students would never have had Jensen as a teacher and therefore there would have been no success amongst these individuals.
The problem with this theory is that it rules out the very real likelihood that the real reason for the success of the one time students was not the arts, but instead was Jensen. Though Jensen's passion was for drama, would Jensen not have had an equally important role in his students' lives had he been a history teacher? Not all of us credit the arts to our success, but the majority of us can all remember a teacher that positively impacted our lives in one way or another.
The message of Class Act perhaps would have been much stronger had the movie done just this: focus on the fact that the American educational system is struggling because it is difficult to find good teachers to teach our children. Just as we hope to invest in our children, we should also invest in our teachers so there are many more Jay Jensen's teaching our children in all subjects.
Sackner, who was assisted in the creation of this movie by other documentarians such as Morgan Spurlock, Joe Morley and Heather Winters had an interesting premise with which to work but it seems to have simply fallen short. The zoomed in focus on only the arts also made several points in the film seem redundant and almost exactly what was just watched five minutes prior.
On the surface, Class Act could have been a rather decent film or perhaps better served as a thirty minute special on a television show like Dateline. However, as created, it does not muster up a passing grade.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Matthew G. Sherwin
- Published on Amazon.com
Class Act explores the very real need for increased funding for arts education in today's American schools. The documentary makes a strong case that without the arts people cannot truly be whole or even truly happy--what if, after all, we lived in a world without music, movies and creativity? For example, my friends all know that I have a deep, deep passion for music; I can never get enough of it. For me, life without music would be dull, to say the least.
The film strengthens its case by showing us interview footage with a very large number of experts in both education and psychology; and we hear from other professionals including actor/director/producer/musician Andy Garcia, Desmond Child (songwriter, "Livin' La Vida Loca" and "Who Let The Dogs Out") and director Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour," Red Dragon" and "X-Men 3." We even see interviews with expert politicians and former government officials on both sides of the aisle as they cry out for increased funding for arts education in American schools. They all argue that there simply isn't enough funding for arts education in the schools; and in some cases there is no funding whatsoever for arts education. What we have seen is an ever increasing focus on test scores--which I'm really not against--but funds for music and drama classes have been sharply diminished.
In addition, the film focuses on one particularly charismatic drama teacher, Jay Jensen. We watch him work happily--and tirelessly--to improve the lives of both young and elderly students through arts education. We get great footage of some of his former students, including Andy Garcia, who enthusiastically validate that Jensen was a model teacher who could make students feel important by helping them express themselves through drama, art and creativity. We also see Jensen teaching in a nursing home to add a little light to the lives of the elderly. That's grand.
There is one bone of contention that I have with this movie, though. The people they interview all indicate that when there was music or any other form of the arts being taught, students were more likely to stay in school and graduate--and even go on to college. This is called correlation--they're saying that two things (in this case, art and wanting more education) are related. That may well be the case. However, you can't say that correlation implies causation. After all, just because the arts were in the schools in and of itself is not "the" guarantee that all of a sudden young people will want to graduate and go on to bigger and better things. I am more comfortable with the belief that teaching the arts in schools does the students the important service of making them well-rounded individuals and better educated on the whole; but the extra education in the arts will not be any automatic key to future success for every student.
The DVD comes with several extras. We get an optional running commentary with director Sara Sackner and producer Heather Winters. There is additional interview footage with Andy Garcia, Brett Ratner, Desmond Child and ESPN radio broadcaster Roy Firestone as well.
Class Act ranks pretty high in my book; it's a firm case for increased funding for the arts in schools. I think it might have benefited somewhat if another teacher or two was highlighted instead of just Jay Jensen; but this becomes a minor issue since we get so much extra interview footage with so many other professionals. I highly recommend Class Act on DVD.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I found this movie so inspiring and entertaining that I first considered briefly giving up my imminent retirement plans to help the crusade for Art in the Schools. Recovering from that, I wished I had the means to make this film available to every teacher, parent, administrator and governing body member, from the Superintendents to the legislators. It makes very clear the importance, in a life-long way, of arts in the schools for every student. What a profound difference could be experienced in our society if the arts had a universal high priority.
- Published on Amazon.com
CLASS ACT is a documentary that portends to examine the negative affect between the loss of arts in public education and student achievement and quality of life. Anyone who has seriously studied the issue knows that there is some validity to this correlation (granted, though, that the correlation has been shown to be small). This topic is an interesting one and could make for a stirring and thought-provoking documentary. This is what CLASS ACT portends to be, but it is not. Instead, it's basically a documentary about an interesting dramatic arts teacher named Jay Jensen who worked with students of all ages for about 40 years in the Miama Beach area. Don't get me wrong, I found the story about Jensen's life to be interesting and focusing upon him the filmmakers get across the message that one person can have a tremendous impact upon the world at large (former Jensen students include Andy Garcia, Brett Ratner, Roy Firestone, and Desmond Child). But Jensen's story isn't the focus of the movie. The movie tries to focus on arts education and its importance and what happens when students don't have access to it. However, that focus gets lost and instead becomes more of an annoying subplot to the larger story of Jensen's life and impact. Had the filmmakers decided to cut out the filler and focus solely in upon Jensen, the movie would have been much better and the filmmakers could have made a stronger argument about how important good teachers are in the lives of students.
I enjoyed parts of CLASS ACT, but at times found the dual focus too jumpy and annoying. CLASS ACT might have made for a decent television special, but as a documentary it just doesn't work very well. The movie is worth watching to learn about Jensen's life, but as a movie that illustrates the importance of arts education in public schools, it fails.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Test, test, test! No Child Left Behind! Mandates handcuffing schools, classrooms and teachers. We seem to be forgetting how to educate the complete child and helping to give the most well rounded education possible. We are producing kids who can take tests but cannot do critical thinking and just as importantly lacking creativity and compassion. This film shows what happens when the arts flourish in our schools and what happens when they disappear. Kids involved in the arts are better students and it has nothing to do with them growing up to be musicians, painters or actors that are merely a byproduct. Jay Jensen the drama teacher who was a main focus in this movie not only influenced lives of people who went on to careers in music, television, movies, and theatre but people who went on to the professional corporate world as well. If you live within a school district that is thinking of cutting the arts then you and everyone else in your community must see this film.