BEVERLY HILLS — “We the Parents,” the debut documentary from director James Takata, has made its world premiere and is now playing at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills.
The film, produced by Takata’s wife, producer Jennifer Welsh Takata, follows a group of parents in Compton who who lead the first-ever attempt to take over their failing public elementary school under California’s new “Parent Trigger” law.
While the heart of the film follows the origins of the “Parent Trigger” law and the spread of this movement, “We the Parents” attempts to provide an honest and balanced depiction of events through a combination of verite footage and interviews, while using animation to explain complex concepts in an entertaining way.
While many recent documentaries have highlighted the crisis of the education system, “We the Parents” examines a potential solution by following everyday parents in their extraordinary effort for their children. The idea of giving power to parents is an untested one, and the film follows every step of the significant controversy, drama, and legal battles that ensue when parents attempt to exercise their rights.
As news spreads about the events in Compton, the film tracks the ripple effect of these parents’ efforts as the idea of a “Parent Trigger” spreads to other communities in California and across the country.
Takata, who lives on the Westside with his wife and their two children, explains, “We went to college, have good jobs and are engaged in the education of our children. On the surface, it might seem like we live in a different world from our neighbors 15 miles away in Compton. Look a little closer and you’ll realize that we have much more in common than you imagined.
“When we started the film, our neighborhood elementary school had been designated as ‘program improvement for four straight years as a result of failing to make ‘adequate yearly progress as identified by the state. Our other option, private school, costs approximately $25,000 a year in L.A., which is unaffordable for us when you multiply that by two children and 13 years.
“Then came the really harsh dose of reality. We applied to five high-achieving public schools in the area via lottery and received spaces at none. As a result, our daughter spent a third year in preschool so that we could try our luck again the following year. We saw friends who could afford private school opting out of the public school system, and others who couldn’t afford it were often forced to settle for less.
“When we heard about the ‘Parent Trigger’ law, we finally saw a potential reform that put the onus of responsibility back on us. We could complain about our local public school or we could try to change it. But the law also brought with it many questions: Could parents really turn around a failing school? How quickly would that happen? With this power, would more parents come back to public schools?
“To answer these questions, we made a documentary. Although we had no funding for the project, we were inspired by the possibilities of organized parent power and felt that this moment in history should be documented. This film was a perfect combination of Jen’s expertise in education, my experience in film, and our shared belief in social justice.”
Laemmle’s Music Hall is located at 9036 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Showtimes are at 12, 1:30 and 6 p.m. James and Jennifer Walsh Takata will have a Q&A with the audience after 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22, which is the last day of the film’s run. For more information, call (310) 478-3836 or visit www.laemmle.com/theaters/4.
About the Director
James Takata is developing other feature projects, including “Noguchi,” about artist Isamu Noguchi, and “You’re So Abducted,” an alien abduction comedy.
“Mic Champion,” Takata’s music video for hip-hop artist J Maddox, won the Slate Award for Best Music Video at the 2009 California Independent Film Festival.
“Trapped,” a short film that Takata directed and produced, won a 2010 Bronze Telly Award, an Accolade Award, and has screened at festivals including the Methodfest, California Independent Film Festival, and Park City Music Festival.
Takata began his filmmaking career in the camera department. He worked his way up from film loading and camera assisting to his current job as the “A” camera/Steadicam operator on the Lifetime Network show “The Client List.”
Takata was also honored with a 2012 Emerging Cinematographer Award for his work shooting the short film “Only Child.”
A member of the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 and the Steadicam Operators Association, Takata earned his BA in studio art from the College of William and Mary and also studied at the Art Institute of Florence.
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