Friday, 16 October 2009


As a statistic notes at the beginning of the film, the number of children under the age of five in New York City has increased by 30% since 2000. All across the city, competitive families from all classes seek to enrol their toddlers in the best pre-schools, stopping at nothing to prepare their child for their educational future. Tony and Cynthia discuss how a friend’s facetious joke led them to start researching top nurseries shortly after their daughter Juliana was born. Harlem residents Kim and Kris prioritise academic achievement for their son Keiron, while 57-year-old single mother of twins Aleta is keen to prove her critics wrong by giving her kids every opportunity possible. As these children are filtered through the process, their parents quickly lose sight of the real goal, investing thousands in application consultants and vapid seminars.

Those expecting a balanced, structured documentary may go wanting. Though it provides ample material for the subject, the footage shot at the families’ homes is far too synthetic to accurately represent the reality. Parents play up to the camera, and the act seems to be reciprocal. The film donates a lot of screen time to the parents, coaxing them to say what is expected of them and never scratching beneath the surface. Even supposed experts in the field provide little more than stats and officious quips. There is much to be said about the ridiculousness of these applications (one nursery charges $20,000 per semester), but this film sadly misses the cue.

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