USA | 2022 Spanish with English subtitles Director: Christopher Zalla
Filmmaker Christopher Zalla brings to life a story that is based on true events in his latest feature narrative RADICAL. Zella is inspired by the complex story of a Mexican teacher, Sergio Juarez (Eugenio Derbez) and his desire to make an impact on the impoverished community where he resides. Namely he hopes to start with a class of apathetic sixth graders destined to be trapped in a world of violence and corruption that embodies their small Mexican border town.
The storyline is about a specific individual and his journey to inspire and encourage young people to discover for themselves their potential through learning. Zalla believes that this is a universal theme. There are hundreds of teachers who embody a similar teaching style as Sergio because they sincerely desire to see their students succeed, especially in the worst of circumstances. Zella follows three students in Sergio's class and their life-altering choices in RADICAL.
Synopsis: The inhabitants, in the Mexican border town Heroica Matamoros, located in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas, suffer from the entanglement of violence and corruption.
Many of its children suffer from neglect. The hardships and apathy permeate down from generation to generation. The Escuela José Urbina Lopez Elementary school (known as the School of Punishment, as one of the least desirable teaching assignments in Mexico), is in need of many tangible things to assist students with learning in a modern world. The problem is when the school receives such items they go missing within days.
No one is more aware of this than the new hire for the sixth-grade class, Sergio Juarez (Eugenio Derbez). The lack of educational resources forces Sergio to teach with creativity. He must capture the attention of his students starting on day-one. Sergio is experienced enough to know that if he fails to do this initial task, the respect of a positive authority figure could have its consequences for the year. What the influential teacher Sergio aspires to attain is on the line and might only be his dream if all is lost.
Yep! Sergio fails on day-one. Day-two is a different story. Sergio begins a new and radical approach with his teaching methodology, to the degree that he has no idea what he will do next. Nor do his students, which attracts them to their crazy teacher.
While Sergio treats all his students the same, we follow three young lives and the choices they make that will affect their destiny: Paloma (Jennifer Trejo), Lupe (Mia Fernandez Solis) and Nico (Danilo Guardiola Escobar).
Paloma and her ailing father (Gilberto Barraza) live below poverty in a shack at the city junk yard. Her father makes a living by collecting scrap metal to sell. Paloma hunts for discarded books and objects she can repurpose. Her dream is to become an aerospace engineer. Sergio encourages her to apply for a scholarship program within the aerospace industry, against her father's wishes.
Lupe is a super bright adolescent. Her responsibility to care for her four younger siblings accelerates her maturity while their mother works night shifts and sleeps during the day. Sergio observes that Lupe has a philosophical bent in her thinking. Lupe has no idea what that means but is curious enough to research the prospect at the university library, after being shut out of her school library.
Nico is the beloved class clown and at risk of being pulled into the gang life with the local drug-lords which his protective brother adheres.
Sergio knows he needs to let the learning happen. Every day his goal is to encourage his students to recognize their potential; but will they take the responsibility to develop it?