Posted January 28, 2009 in

Dir: Richard Levien

A young boy struggling to learn English in an elementary classroom as a recent immigrant to the U.S. may not seem like much of a concept but it works in this short. The young character of Moises was apparently based on the experience Director Levien's wife had as a teacher at a school in Los Angeles and was actually shot at the very school she taught at. This authenticity cuts through and the character of location plays a silent role as we see LA peeking its political powder keg head into every scene. The children aren't allowed tests printed in their native tongue of Spanish, instead they are forced to jump ahead schooling levels in one year in what realistically should take five to seven, experts say. Moises' teacher tries to find old tests printed in Spanish to let the capable mathematician in him work through the language barrier. Her struggle is one rarely focused on in immigration issues education but one that finally gets a critical view here.

The protagonist's family is very supportive of his education and young Moises studies in almost every scene. His test days are greeted by a small graphic character that aids his mathematical word problems. The graphics are very interesting, almost a Ghostwriter effect but less silly, if such a thing is possible. The short is very provocative and ends on an unanswered note: letting us wonder if Moises will acquiesce to unhealthy peer pressure and not work the system, or if he will continue studying and conquer his new environs. I, however, left with a positive impression.

4 out of 5 *s

by Jon Paxton