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Feature Film “The Empty Classroom” to premiere at the AFI Latin American Film Festival

Gael Garcia Bernal and 10 other Latin American film directors portray the impact of the school dropout phenomenon in the region

A new film exploring the impact of Latin America’s alarmingly high school dropout rate will be shown in a free screening on Sept. 28 at the Latin American Film Festival of the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“The Empty Classroom” was produced by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) under the creative direction of Mexican actor and director Gael Garcia Bernal, and consists of 10 short films created by 10 Latin American filmmakers. The movie explores the reasons why nearly half of high school students never graduate in Latin America.

“This important film tells the story of the educational crisis in Latin America, showcased by young Latin American filmmakers,” says Marcelo Cabrol, head of the IDB’s Office of External Relations. "It’s the first time that an international organization creates a movie of this kind, in an effort to contribute to public debate throughout Latin America on the urgent need to improve the quality of education.

The movie screening, free and open to the public, will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, located at 8633 Colesville Road in Silver Spring, two blocks north of the Metro Red Line’s Silver Spring station. The theatre’s doors open at 6 p.m. Registration is required.

The short films included in The Empty Classroom are:

Good Intentions
Director: Carlos Gaviria, Colombia
Gaviria explores the links between the dropout crisis and violence. His short film Good Intentions tells the story of two young people on the road to recovery after becoming the victims of violence. Good Intentions shows the impact violence can have on future generations.

Director: Eryk Rocha, Brazil
Rocha examines how to identify students at risk of dropping out of school in Latin America. His film Igor is based on the real life story of a teenager with lots of energy and potential who lacks the motivation to stay in school. This true story reflects the current situation of many students who are at risk of dropping out of school.

Director: Flavia Castro, Brazil
Flavia Castro explores the lack of interest in school that is preventing students from graduating. While it is true that socioeconomic barriers still keep some students from completing high school in Latin America, this does not tell the full story. In most countries, the decision whether to stay in school has become the greatest challenge to educating future generations.

Director: Lucrecia Martel, Argentina
It is said that education is the great equalizer able to close gaps and open opportunities. But what happens when schools themselves reflect the divisions and discrimination within a community in conflict? In Martel’s short Leagues, the Argentine filmmaker explores the issue of school exclusion in indigenous communities.

Director: Mariana Chenillo, Mexico.
Students with disabilities face physical, social, and cultural barriers to accessing education. It is estimated that only 20% to 30% of children and youth with disabilities in Latin America attend school. In her short Hugo, Chenillo’s protagonist is just like any other high school student; he goes to class and studies so that he can graduate. The only difference: he is a deaf student in a hearing world. Hugo is a typical teenager. He just faces not-so-typical challenges to finishing high school.

Written Off
Director: Nicolás Pereda, Mexico
For students who drop out of school, the future can be as uncertain and confusing as snow on television. The immediate costs and challenges might prevent them from seeing the long-term benefits of a quality education. But if the education system is failing, why even bother going to school? Pereda asks if the cost of staying in school is worth it.

Director: Paul Fendrik, Argentina
Fendrik directed Piñalito, a short filmed in Misiones, Argentina about the obstacles to accessing education in rural areas. The protagonist Pedro dreams of escaping the backbreaking work on his family’s tobacco farm. He would like to study but his family wants him to work. Will he end up going to school?

More or less
Director: Pablo Stoll, Uruguay
Stoll asks what kind of future awaits young people who drop out of high school, and what happens when they want to go back to school. In his short, two teenagers are highly motivated to pursue their dreams, but unmotivated to stay in school. They soon discover that education is not an obstacle in the way, but rather the key to success in life. But will it be too late to go back?

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil
Director: Tatiana Huezo, El Salvador
Huezo investigates how violence affects the school dropout crisis. This film explores the fear that forces many young people living in high-risk areas of the city of San Salvador to abandon their studies. Education can be a powerful tool to prevent violence. The tragic irony is that in some places, even the schools are not safe.

Directors Daniel and Diego Vega
The Vega brothers follow a teenager from Lima who wonders how she will graduate from high school. Are high schools prepared to engage twenty-first century students?

About us

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source oflong-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

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