Try Harder

#StopAsianHate, you racist educational systems!

Lowell High has been ranked the #1 public school in San Francisco with a Majority Asian-American student body. However, over the past 15 years, acceptance rates for the best colleges (Stanford, UCLA, etc.) have been decreasing. The physics classes determine the seniors’ grades, and students are under pressure at school or at home.

“Try Harder” is the new documentary to focus on that subject, and it’s quite informative about what goes on in the main school. It’s harsh and challenging, and its students express themselves in sentimental and passionate ways.

We meet five students, who have their own perspectives of getting into college, and trying hard to get into their preferred choices, or what they think is expected of them. Rachel, Shea, Sophia, Ian, and Alvan are those students, and they have a lot to talk about. They’re prone to being rejected. They end up feeling either relieved about it or doubtful about themselves being good enough for the right education.

There’s also a stereotype that Asian kids may be smart, but they can’t get accepted into the best colleges. It’s more about convincing others you are the best, and the movie claims they’re more humble than others about themselves. And when they do get rejected, the excuse is they’re always accepting too much applicants and can’t squeeze everyone in. Well, that’s relatively racist.

And by the way, the movie doesn’t focus on just asians, but also African-Americans and white characters as well.

  • Rachel is a mixed African-American girl, who is surprised she passed the PSAT, and feels she wants to make her mother happy by trying to get into Stanford.
  • Shea is a white boy, and one of the only two juniors in AP Physics C, who wants to help fight against climate change. As a B student, he needs to get the best grade in order to get into the college that will help him reach his goals.
  • Sophia is a busy bee, whose parents are from China, and college is a big goal for a lot of immigrant families.
  • Ian would like to go to Stanford and then medical school.
  • Alvan might have the potential to be a brain surgeon, and wants to go to UCLA. His mother prefers him to go to a closer school in order for him to have a balanced life. And he tries to make himself less Asian in order to not stand out so much.

“Try Harder,” directed by Debbie Lum (“Seeking Asian Female”), wants to warn us about how some of the best schools discriminate against these asian students, who are a lot more than the stereotypes describe them. They’re human beings and all they want are to be productive members of society.

It does lag in various areas, but it also makes an important point about how discrimination can also be involved in the school systems, too. The excuses about why are unacceptable and pathetic, as if everyone is too stupid to understand the real reason.

The student interviewees all have the courage to say what’s on their minds about how schools work for them, and what they plan to do whether or not things work out for them. They’re real people, and they deserve our support and sympathy.

And the final scene when Shea gets accepted into the college of his dreams is so heart-warming, it’s impossible not to smile.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday

Categories: Documentary

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