Childhood and adolescence may provide some protection from the anxieties and traumas of adulthood, but insulation from reality also breeds apathy. In Homeroom, East Bay filmmaker Peter Nicks’ verité portrait of the disorienting and reorienting senior year of Oakland High School’s class of 2020, we are presented with a cadre of determined teens who are anything but apathetic. Confronted with the budget-cutting condescension of the Oakland Unified School District and the ineffectual platitudes of Mayor Libby Schaaf (“I want you to know your power and claim it”), they keep organizing, speechifying and holding their ground.
By “they” I primarily mean Denilson Garibo, one of two student board directors on the OUSD Board of Education. Lots of kids sign up for organizations and activities to pad their college applications; Garibo is a committed activist in the forefront of the community campaign to remove Oakland cops from schools and redirect that money to student programs on the chopping block.
When the board votes down the proposal, Garibo promises to fight on, but we all know how rare it is to change the system—even in Oakland, where it seems everyone is perpetually clamoring for improvement. Nicks is a firsthand observer; he piercingly exposed the power that Oakland institutions have on everyday people, and the struggle of individuals to transform those entities, in The Waiting Room (about Highland Hospital) and The Force (about the Oakland Police Department). Hulu has acquired streaming rights to those exceptionally crafted documentaries, which portray America’s big-city challenges with fairness as well as unexpected emotion.