Eugenio Derbez takes on the real-life role of Mexican primary school teacher Sergio Juarez Correa in the poverty-stricken border town of Matamoros, Mexico, which is just south of Brownsville, Texas.
In 2011, the José Urbina López Elementary School is among the worst performing schools in Mexico, where students are struggling with not only poverty but violence. Cartels recruit students away from the strict classrooms easily, as the classrooms are strict, underfunded and equipment, if it exists, is broken. Computers in the school? No – computers that funds were allocated for eight years prior never materialized. The students are marginalized children with not much of a chance for the future, and a corrupt system that actually encourages the opposite of learning.
Incredibly, teacher Sergio, who was fired from his last school for having an existential crisis, shows up to try to make a difference, using an unconventional teaching method learned from a TED talk which allows the children to teach themselves.
As it happens, there is an actual genius in the class (Paloma, played by Jennifer Trejo). Sergio, who is also from Matamoros, and grew up in the same school system, absolutely refuses to give up on the kids. He battles the status quo and even other teachers. A horrific event is a catalyst for Sergio’s two-week suspension and an empty classroom – things look bleak for the kids.
The unconventional method starts working, the kids learn. The end result is not just passing grades, but students scoring in the highest percentile in the national exams in 2012.
RADICAL, under the helm of Writer/Director Christopher Zalla, takes a story by Joshua Davis for Wired Magazine about Paloma and brings it to life in the most heartfelt way. You may cry during the movie, but you will leave inspired for the future of these kids. Faith in humanity restored.