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Petersburg Rising cover image

Petersburg Rising 2021

Highly Recommended

Distributed by The Video Project, 145 - 9th St., Suite 230, San Francisco, CA 94103; 800-475-2638
Produced by Alan Blankstein
Directed by Alan M. Blankstein and David Yosha
Streaming, 57 mins

Middle School - General Adult
Adolescent; Education; Sociology; Teacher Prep

Date Entered: 07/12/2022

Reviewed by Giovanna Colosi, Librarian for the School of Education, Subject Instruction Lead, Syracuse University

Petersburg Rising, tells the story of Petersburg, Virginia, a place once named an "All American City" for its quality of life, to a city known for its declining economy and racial tensions. The city draws many parallels to other cities in America that have gone boom to bust, such as the cities along the rust belt, including Detroit.

The city enlisted the help and expertise of, Dr. Marcus Newsome, a recently retired innovator Superintendent of Schools. He jokes about going back to work as, failing retirement. You quickly learn that Dr, Newsome rarely fails at anything.

When Dr, Newsome begins his tenure, the city was millions of dollars in debt. Most of the schools were lacking accreditation. Teachers, parents, and community investors could not agree on priorities and the administration was about to default on teacher paychecks.

This short film follows several students as well as Dr. Newsome as they navigate the trials and tribulations facing high school students in a poor community, and as Dr. Newsome tries to improve the schools by getting them accredited, improve curriculum, having graduation rates rise as well as trying to procure money to help the future students of Petersburg.

While the film has a very positive and aspirational tone, including the ending where three of the students featured all are accepted to college, the viewer is reminded by text, that even before the Covid-19 pandemic, only 1 in 3 first-generation college students’ complete college. We hear from two of these students during ending credits describe what their post high school education has looked like. We, the viewer, are reminded that for poor students, the road to college graduation is still difficult to obtain, even with a great secondary school background.

2021, Best TV Documentary, Culver City Film Festival; 2021, Audience Choice / Founders Award, Richmond International Film Festival; Winner of the Oliver White Hill Short Film Festival on Social Justice Competition

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