Homeroom filmmaker Peter Nicks, whose documentary delves into the lives of a high school class in Oakland, CA, dealing with troubling issues ranging from the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic to concerns about their school system’s internal police force, said his Hulu film reveals how the teen generation is eager and capable of using their mastery of social media to drive significant change.
The latest in Nicks’ trilogy of documentaries – including The Waiting Room and The Force – examining struggles within Oakland’s public institutions, Homeroom explores “this sort of confounding dialectic on maybe social media, the role of plays and a lot in the lives of young people,” Nicks said during Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary awards-season event. “I think a lot of mental health challenges that young people are facing stem from social media, as does this conundrum, this loneliness that kids have despite being so connected, that is starting to emerge.”
Nicks said one of the ensemble cast of high school teens in particular helped provide a window into the way a younger and younger generation confronts political issues. “One of the kids that we selected early on was Denilson Garibo, who sits on the school board as a student representative, and we knew that he would take us into places that would help articulate a lot of the issues that the kids were grappling with.”
Garibo had a vital vantage on the students’ increasingly passionate push, further stoked by the #BlackLivesMatter protests, to eliminate the school system’s dedicated police force and reallocate the considerable funds for student mental health services.
“We’ve seen it over the years: Malala and the Parkland kids and Greta Thunburg – all these young people who have these skills and these abilities at their disposal, this knowledge, this sort of networking of talking to each other, supporting each other, in the absence of any adult super supervision, really, that allows them to rise to the occasion of saying ‘We want to create change, and here’s how we’re going to do it, and then we can actually take action do it ourselves,’” said Nicks.
“And unlike the ’60s, our recollections of sort of movements, youth movements, being sort of largely driven by college kids, it has pushed out into high school and even middle school kids,” said Nicks. “[They] are active or learning how to be engaged and put their voice forward in such a way to say ‘We can actually help. We have something to say. We have something to add.’”
Check out the panel video above.