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This image released by Participant/Pantelion Films shows Eugenio Derbez in a scene from “Radical.” (Participant/Pantelion via AP)

To Sir With Love south of the border, a Dead Poets Society for the dirt poor, Christopher Zalla’s RADICAL is a tribute to teaching and the valour that vocation bestows on the whole community.

Winner of the Sundance Film Favourite Award, RADICAL is based on the true story of an inspiring educator who refused to let his students be defined by their circumstances. In the Mexican border town of Matamoros, plagued by neglect, corruption, and violence, Sergio, a frustrated teacher, tries a radical new approach to break through his students’ apathy and unlock their curiosity, their potential, and certainly in one case, their genius.

RADICAL depicts the inspirational true story that highlights a widespread challenge; it is a truth universally acknowledged that potential is everywhere, but opportunity is not. It also highlights what may be an answer to these challenges, kids exploring their inherent resources, their curiosities and communities.

Draconian ideas of drone discipline and the rote passing of Naplan style exams has set education in the doldrums and Sergio is determined to supply a fresh wind into the sails of learning, facilitating and navigating a course of guided discovery for and with his students.

RADICAL takes precise aim at compounded systemic and historic inequities like fewer school resources, a lazy and possibly corrupt bureaucracy, teacher burn-out and a community that sees little value in education. You need no education to herd sheep, till the soil, indiscriminately breed or deal drugs. But you certainly need it to break the pernicious cycle of  poverty and crime.

Eugenio Derbez is blazing amazing as the crusading preceptor, Sergio, a pedagogue David against a demagogue establishment Goliath. His radical slings stings the status quo held by the faculty of Philistines, and their wrath is severe. His passion and perseverance is sorely tested but his practice prevails with positive outcomes posited against negative setbacks.

Radical is a word that has dueling connotations. It can mean extreme and fanatical. It can also denote going to the root of the matter, and if those roots are moribund, then radical re-routing is required.

RADICAL is radical in the positive and progressive sense. It is radicalisation to embrace. 


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