Starring: Aleta St. James, Tony Pratofiorito, Cynthia Pratofiorito, Juliana Pratofiorito, Kieron Ragoonath
Directed By Matthew Makar and Marc H. Simon
Did your preschool offer Mandarin lessons, tennis or swimming? Mine didn’t and I turned out fine. My preschool had toys, an alphabet poster and a cook that served up some yummy green beans and potatoes. However, I think the parents in this documentary released by Docurama want their kids to be doctors and lawyers and not like me: a filmmaker and film nerd. So, whose parents are right?
In New York City, privileged families compete over placing their precious tots in prestigious preschools, believing the road to Ivy League schools begins just after potty training and teething rings.
These parents believe this so fervently, they are willing to spend upwards of $15,000 a year and more to send their rugrats to the “right” preschool.
Nursery University follows five families from the application and interview process to the nerve-wracking wait for acceptance or rejection letters. One parent refers to the whole process as a “blood sport”. There are even individuals that will act as “consultants” and charge over $4,000.00 to assist harried parents in the process.
The film was created over 12 months, so it took dedication on both the filmmakers and participants standpoint. I do want to clarify that not every family selected for the film was wealthy; one family in particular wants one of the few scholarships that one of the school offers. She desires a much different start to life than she experienced. This story in particular is poignant and the audience will find themselves rooting for her and her child.
While the parents exhibit a pretty nasty sense of entitlement and have that overall feeling of being in a fog that can come from not having the money worries and troubles average folk have, the kids are cute and hey: it isn’t their fault who their parents are.
It does seem like the parents love their children. It just a bit disturbing to see what a sense of fear it brings to the hearts and minds of these parents that their children might be….dare I say….average. Oh, the horrors.
The filmmakers handle the subject evenly, never incriminating the parents but not putting them on a pedestal either.
Fans of documentary film will enjoy this film and it serves as a good reminder for the parents out there that any kid that is unconditionally loved, well cared for and cherished is as privileged as the baby born with the golden spoon in their mouth.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The source material was clean and the overall image is vibrant and free of artifacts or grain. Remember, this is a documentary film, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
The film is presented in 2.0 stereo. While not the most dynamic presentation, the dialogue is clear throughout and serves the film well.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes packaged in a standard amaray case with artwork suitable to the film presented.
First up, the filmmakers offer a commentary. There are several deleted scenes. Hampton International Film Festival Q & A has the filmmakers and most of the participants fielding questions at the film festival.
The Margaret Mead Festival Q & A is very similar to the other featurette. Tips from the Experts: Advice for Getting into Nursery School has experts answering commonly asked questions.
Rounding things out is a theatrical trailer and filmmaker bios.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 6.5/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10