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Try Harder!

  • 1h 25m
  • Debbie Lum
  • United States
  • 2021

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Category Winner, Family/Whānau

At Lowell High School, the top public high school in San Francisco, the seniors are stressed out as they prepare for the emotionally draining college application process. There is intense competition for the few open spots in their dream colleges. Each student scrutinises every element of their application, from their classes to their extracurricular activities, to their racial identities. How will the sum-total of who they are, and what they are capable of becoming, be read by admission officers?

At Lowell, the cool kids are nerds, the orchestra is world class, nearly everyone has an amazing talent and being Asian American is the norm. 

How do you stand out? And even if you do, will racial “quotas” prevent you from gaining a place in your dream college? And why do non-Asian-Americans choose to attend Lowell?

Told with humour and heart, Doc Edge alumni director (Seeking Asian Female) Lum takes us to the intersection of class, race, and educational opportunity. 


Underneath the goofiness and gallows humor, there is a darker point being made about the impossible cycle of heightened expectations, cultural stereotyping and ever-shrinking admissions quotas for top-flight colleges.
Jessica Kiang, Variety

This film is part of our Family/Whānau Category, proudly presented by Rei Foundation.


Debbie Lum


Kathy Susca





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