Radical premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in January. The film is written and directed by Christopher Zalla (Sangre De Mi Sangre), who adapted the screenplay for Radical from the 2013 WIRED Magazine article by Joshua Davis, titled “A Radical Way of Unleashing a Generation of Geniuses.” The article is about a teacher, Sergio Juárez Correa, and his work at the José Urbina López Primary School in Matamoros, Mexico, a border town across the river from Brownsville, Texas. The true story of this teacher provides a glimpse into how he challenged the existing teaching methods and inspired the students to learn. Radical won the Festival Favourite award at Sundance.
In this film, it is evident how poverty and lack of opportunity, aside from some of the administrator’s behavior and attitudes, impact the children. This problem and other factors lead them to give up on their education or, because of family matters, are left without hope of achieving more. There are many children in school in this film, but it features three characters and the circumstances they live in. It is hard to view the poverty and the violence that surrounds them. One scene shows children walking to school and must walk by a crime scene, dead bodies, law enforcement, and all.
Despite what the audience sees in their daily life, the children see a ray of hope when they arrive at the school and see an adult sitting in the middle of the classroom with the desks in disarray. At first, they may think he is mentally unstable, but they soon learn he is the new teacher, Sergio (Eugenio Derbez, CODA, The Valet). He is challenging the sixth graders in his class to think, to view things differently, to come up with answers, and, all in all, to have them think of themselves as capable and have a future. The school’s principal (nicknamed) Chucho (Daniel Haddad) cannot believe Sergio’s methods. They go round and round for a while until the principal understands what Sergio wants to achieve, instead of teaching to learn to memorize things for the standardized tests given to the students.
Even though the school does not have computers installed and a library barely stocked with books, he encourages the students to learn “hands-on” on the school patio and make do with the resources they find. Derbez has an acting career of several decades in Mexico, as well as in the United States, and his performance is excellent in both the dramatic and, of course, the comedic scenes that naturally flow from him. He is a generous actor in giving ample space to the child actors to portray their characters and the lives they lead. The scenes of Derbez with the students are captivating and endearing, especially when watching the change in the individuals and group. The main child actors with the most screen time are Jennifer Trejo (as Paloma), Mia Fernanda Solis (as Lupe), and Danilo Guardiola (as Nico).
Additional Cast: Paloma’s father (Gilberto Barraza), Víctor Estrada, Manuel Márquez, Christian Gonzalez, Xochiquetzal Martínez, Edmundo Munoz, Enoc Leaño, Manuel Cruz Vivas, and Erwin Veytia.
This film will appeal to people concerned about the educational system and see what one man did to bring about change.
Rated PG-13 for some strong violent content, thematic material, and strong language. The film is 127 minutes long. In Spanish, with English subtitles.
Radical is now available in US theaters on November 3rd.
About: 3Pas Studios, headquartered in Los Angeles, is a multiplatform global entertainment company co-founded by the award-winning actor, writer, director, and producer Eugenio Derbez and acclaimed film and television producer Ben Odell.
Source: Sundance FF, 3Pas Studios