Try Harder!

Lowell High, one of San Francisco’s top-ranked public schools, has the reputation of a prison that only teaches to “machines”. Documentary filmmaker Debbie Lum delves into the lives of some of its students and follows them for months during their college application process. In an educational system where going to university means getting into debt or being offered limited scholarships, getting the best grades is no longer synonymous with a future at the best universities. Stanford, UCLA, Berkley and many other institutions often come up among the fruitless applications of these Z Generation protagonists.

In this documentary, we closely follow the brilliant minds that, experiencing family pressure and a lack of opportunities, fight to achieve what they are longing for, while trying to preserve a mental health that is often hanging by a thread. Featuring the generation portrayed in Booksmart, America to me, or Eight grade.


Year: 2021
Runtime: 85′
Country: USA
Direction: Debbie Lum
Cinematography: Lou Nakasako, Kathy Huang
Genre: Documentary
Subtitles: Maria Antònia Llabrés Font, Neus Calafell, Estibaliz Cabañes
Contact: Autlook Films

Wins & nominations

2021: Sundance Film Festival
2021: AFI Docs
2021: Full Frame Festival