Official Selection, 2021 Tribeca Film Festival
You might have seen the viral videos—they were undeniably exhilarating to watch. In one, a dozen Black teenagers in rural Louisiana huddle around one laptop. A kid at the center is wearing a hat with Yale’s logo on it, flush with anticipation. Suddenly, the room explodes into celebration and joy. He’s in.
While part of the appeal of these videos is simply seeing so many people being happy for one another, another part of their appeal relies upon (and advances) certain assumptions. That mere acceptance to an Ivy League school translates into wealth or success. That unlike the privileged kids of the Varsity Blues scandal, these kids are getting in “the right way.” And that the joy expressed in these videos doesn’t partially mask the relief of escape—not from poverty or the streets—but from T.M. Landry College Preparatory, a small charter school whose staggering 100% percent college acceptance rate was logged through these videos, securing its students regular appearances on shows like Ellen. Then a New York Times exposé blew it all apart.
Neither pushing a feel-good story nor leveling condemnations, Dan Chen’s ACCEPTED takes a different path, focusing on the actual, fascinating, and deeply self-aware students of T.M. Landry. We live through a year at school with them, including classes, applications, national scandals, and what comes after. Through their experiences and voices, ACCEPTED delves into the joy, pain, and ambiguities that T.M. Landry’s students face. What is it like to embody all the assumptions we make about the education system, and what happens when they prove to be lies?