U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking
On a remote patch of the Mojave Desert, amidst dusty tumbleweeds and rangy Joshua Trees, sits an anomaly: a high school where educators believe empathy, life skills, and the constancy of a caring adult are the differences that will give at-risk students command of their fates. On any given day, principal Vonda Viland calls kids at the crack of dawn to see if they’ll make it to school. And if they need a ride? Well, she’ll pick them up. Vonda knows each student’s challenges and coaches them tirelessly, never fostering false hopes. Her philosophy combines loving compassion with realism, and given her school’s rising graduation rate, it seems to be working.
We fall in love with Vonda and “bad kids” Joey, Jennifer, and Lee—each wrestling with traumatic odds like abuse, addiction, homelessness, and teen parenthood. Intimate vérité camerawork and poetic, stylized sequences create an immersive, emotional experience that gives way to not just information, but also insight about America’s most pressing education problem: poverty. The Bad Kids is that rare documentary whose power emerges as much from its exquisite artistry as its crucial content.
Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe are directors of both documentary and fiction films and have made movies together for over 20 years. Their documentary feature Lost in La Mancha stands as the first and only verité chronicle of the collapse of a major motion picture, was nominated for the European Film Award for Best Documentary, and won the Evening Standard’s Peter Sellers Award for Best Comedy. Their punk rock fever-dream, Brothers of the Head, won the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature in 2006. For AMC, the team created the original documentary special Malkovich’s Mail. Fulton and Pepe are also the authors of numerous screenplays, including The Wizards of Perfil, which made the Hollywood Black List in 2007.