Try Harder!

Directed by Debbie Lum

After the feature, enjoy a FREE bonus recording of a LIVE Q&A with filmmaker Debbie Lum, director of TRY HARDER, producer Lou Nakasako, and Sophia Wu, one of the students featured in the film! (recorded 5/2/21)


* This film is available to view in California only. Limited tickets available.

Official Selection, 2021 Sundance Film Festival

“Kids at Lowell are pretty amazing,” says one Lowell student, nervously. “Amazing” is what sets them apart: these are specially-selected students in San Francisco’s top high school, a fabled institution that produces college-ready superstars. But “amazing” is also a high bar to live up to: against their peers in silent competition, to their parents’ explicit and implicit expectations of immigrant success, but importantly, to their own inchoate standards of personal value. Furthermore, most of the students at Lowell are Asian American, which comes with a different set of biases about being merely “A.P. machines,” especially in the eyes of Ivy Leagues trying to maintain their white country club reputations, as one Lowell teacher bluntly warns.

The five students we get to know in Debbie Lum’s peppy, nerve-racking, and joyous TRY HARDER! are anything but machines. They are not-so-secret dancers and ice cream scoopers. They exude genuine love for each other, their parents, and their teachers. Set across their senior year, Lum follows them from an autumn scrambling to submit college applications, to a bittersweet graduation anticipating the next chapter of trying harder and being amazing.

–Brian Hu

Sponsored by San Diego Chinese Women’s Association

Co-Presented by Alliance of Chinese Americans, San Diego

Sponsored by