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Urban Ed: A Portrait of Inner City Education

In 2013, filmmaker/educator Wade Wofford was teaching 10th grade English at an intimate charter school in Springfield. Frustrated by the teacher-centric portraits of urban education that Hollywood has attempted (white-savior stories about the fish-out-of-water teacher who transforms the lives of every kid and lets students sleep at her house when the gang’s after them), Wofford always wanted to tell a more earnest story, born of the actual schools. Then it happened: Wofford and his students found out their school was being closed mid-year…its students transferred to one of the worst schools in the state.

URBAN ED was born…a gritty, micro-budget narrative drama inspired by those events.

Aryana is a sophomore who goes to Woodrow Wilson Charter School, a small-but-intimate struggling charter for grades 6-12. She gets herself up, wakes her 7th grade brother & kindergarten sister, cobbles together breakfast from scraps, then gets them on the bus. She doesn’t want to wake her mom, who worked a double and is not doing well since Aryana’s brother died in a club shooting.

Aryana’s greatest conflict at present is that her boyfriend D’Avante’s strict mother thinks she’s a bad influence. Aryana comes around with lots of cut lips and black eyes, so D’Avante’s mom assumes she’s catfighting in the streets. Not the case, unfortunately; Aryana’s mom has quite a temper…

When the school announces that Wilson will be closing in January, things get intense. Aryana and her ensemble of four friends reel, struggling to cope with what it means for their future. Beans, D’Avante’s best friend, reacts with anger. He’s always hated this school; they’re always riding his case when he shows up three hours late because he has no way to charge his phone sleeping in his cousin’s car on the south side. Still, he can’t help feel “Even the shit we don’t want they got to take from us.”

The action of the film is split between three seasons of a single academic year, and explores the education these students are exposed to…not just in their classrooms, but in their homes, the world of the inner city, and the polarized country at large.

What makes URBAN ED truly unique is the manner in which it will be filmed – in a style similar to Chloe Zhao’s Oscar-winning NOMADLAND…using real students cast from within the public schools that inspired the film. Our production has partnered with businesses, urban schools, and cultural councils in the region – and held open-call auditions at all 8 of western Mass’ biggest urban high schools – seeing nearly 300 kids.

In a time of Donald Trump and the disgusting re-invigoration of racism, the world needs an authentic portrait that displays the complexity of the issues at play in these beautiful, diverse classrooms.

Click here to check out the pitch deck for more information about the project.

Associated Members

Wade Wofford, Director


We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation
City of Boston Arts and Culture