Won’t Back Down
as told to Nicole Kato
Executive Director of Hawaii Public Charter School Network
Where and with whom did you see the movie? I saw it with my husband, Peter Finnegan, a captain in the Honolulu Fire Department.
Overall what did you think? Won’t Back Down shows how concerned parents and motivated teachers can overcome bureaucratic hurdles and do what’s best for students. When this type of teamwork produces a successful charter school, the students, their families and the entire community can benefit.
Without giving away the ending, what was one of your favorite scenes?
There’s lots of drama when the school board holds a jam-packed public hearing to decide the fate of a charter school application.
On a scale of one to four stars, what would you rate this film? Reviews have been mixed, but I’d give it ★★★★. The film has lots of heart, and our challenging educational issues couldn’t be timelier.
What did you think of the cinematography?
Works for me. It’s shot in Pittsburgh in an inner-city neighborhood. Very gritty. My husband and I are big Pittsburgh Steelers fans (go Polamalu!), so we elbowed each other whenever we saw a Steelers logo in the background.
Was the message/theme clear?
Absolutely. This film emphasizes the importance of taking personal initiative – of not backing down – to improve the lives of children, no matter what the odds. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character – a single mom working two jobs – makes a critical decision when she chooses what’s good for many students over what’s good for just her child. Ultimately, as Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Did it remind you of any other works in film? Won’t Back Down is a fictional story inspired by actual events. It reminds me of Waiting for Superman, a documentary about America’s challenges in public education. In the end it, should always be about what’s best for our kids.
To whom would you recommend this movie? Anyone who believes all children should have the opportunity for a quality education should see this film. Whether a school is a traditional public school, a public charter school or a private school, parents and other community members can do a lot to ensure school success.
Did any of the actors stand out?
Gyllenhaal does a great job portraying Jamie Fitzpatrick, a mother who’s desperate to find the right teacher and school for her young daughter. She represents moms who go to the mat for their children. This is a perfect role for Maggie. She’s very believable.
Did you identify with any of the characters? As a parent of kids who attended a charter school – and having struggled to make sure they received a quality education – I relate to Gyllenhaal’s character. I ran and was elected as the parent representative on a charter school board. Soon after, I ran and was elected as a state representative because of my desire to support quality school choices in public education.
Did the soundtrack contribute significantly to the film? The soundtrack is enjoyable, but the story and acting performances make the biggest impressions.
Would you buy this movie when it comes out on DVD? Yes. This is a keeper.
What’s your favorite movie snack?
Popcorn, no doubt.
On a different note, what’s new with you? HPCSN is reaching out to motivated parents, business leaders and other community members statewide and asking them to consider volunteering as a charter school governing board member. This is a wonderful way share your talents by enhancing the quality of education and operations at our public charter schools. Call us at 380-6403 for more information and/or email your resume to HPCSNboardbank@gmail.com.