An estimated 50 parents and teachers demonstrated outside the "Won’t Back Down" film premiere in New York Sunday. Demonstrators said the film pushes for more testing, closures, teacher bashing and the privatization of public schools.
Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in the film "Won’t Back Down" that is loosely based on The Parent Trigger law, which first passed in California in 2010 and now on the books in seven states.
"I’m not Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I play her in real life," Zakiyah Ansari, a mother of eight, an education advocate and the organizer of the protest told the Hollywood Reporter. "When you have a super PAC like StudentsFirst pushing this movie, we are not fooled. We know the agenda of this group pushes for more testing, closures, teacher bashing and the privatization of our public schools."
Colorlines.com’s education reporter Julianne Hing published a story Wednesday that called the film a "a well-funded political tool to advance a hot-button school reform policy around the nation. Hing’s story "Hollywood Takes Up School Reform’s Latest Agenda in ‘Won’t Back Down’" describes the policy debate behind the film:
The film dramatizes the real-life policy debate happening right now across the country as states debate parent trigger laws which give parents the power to dissolve and remake their kids’ failing public schools if organizers can garner the support of more than 50 percent of parents at the school. Parent trigger backers, among them the former Washington D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, have said that the law, which is on the books in seven states, is a powerful tool to empower parents, who are too often left out of the school reform debate. Yet skeptics say the law only provides the illusion of parental empowerment–that the law is designed to shortcut the destabilization of public schools, and the actual process doesn’t leave room to ensure lasting involvement from parents.
Davis appeared on the "Today" show Monday morning applauded the protesters.
"I welcome protests," Davis said on the ‘Today Show’ the following morning. "I welcome discourse; I think discourse is a good thing. I think it spearheads change…. And you know what, in this movie, the teacher at the end of the day is the hero. They save the day. And it’s a system that’s broken, that needs to be fixed."
Film reviewers have given "Won’t Back Down" a 33 percent freshness score on the film review website, Rotten Tomatoes.
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune claims that "You know exactly where the movie stands straight off," after describing the film’s opening with an apathetic teacher. "[‘Won’t Back Down’] represents an unusually blunt attempt to make movie audiences feel good about feeling lousy about public education and the good-for-nothing union-coddled teachers destroying a generation of learners."
That’s not very good and perhaps why opening weekend expectations for the film remain soft. Insiders expect the $19-million movie to pull in less than $5 million when it opens against the sci-fi time travel film "Looper" and the animated comedy "Hotel Transylvania."