The New Public (2013)

  • Producers: Jyllian Gunther, Essie Chambers, Carla Solomon, Lesley Goldman, Alan Oxman
  • Editor: Penelope Falk
  • Associate Producers: Sara'o Bery, Anderson Wright
  • Executive Producers: Jack Lechner, Anthos Media, Andrea Miller, Josh Braun
  • Director: Jyllian Gunther
Film Length:
The New Public Facebook The New Public Twitter

In fall 2006, former DJ, point-guard and teacher turned first-time principal, James OBrien opened a small public high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where 1/3 of residents live below the poverty line and the graduation rate is 40%. With infectious optimism, OBrien and his staff of eight undertook a new and unconventional approach, emphasizing strong individual support and arts-based nontraditional instruction. Initially, the buzz from the community was that this was a dream come true. But conflicts arose when old realities surfaced. Filmed over four years, The New Public goes in and out of the classroom to follow the journey of students, parents and educators striving to reconcile idealism with reality and make a difference in the futures of young people whose lives are stark representations of our countrys education and opportunity gaps. Through the prism of one inner-city school, we witness complexities faced by urban public schools and communities everywhere.

The Film Campaign


1. COLUMBIA TEACHERS COLLEGE is already using the film to give its pre-service teachers a realistic look inside inner-city schools. (Formerly, they used the fictional TV show The Wire.) Concurrently, CTC is creating an in-depth film curriculum for teaching colleges nationwide.

2. With partners AFT, NOTL, and Youth-On-Board, were developing a screening/discussion series to unite stakeholders: policymakers, educators, parents and students. Inaugural screening this May in Washington, D.C.

3. BCAM educator Kevin Greer is developing a Common Core standards teaching guide for the film as nonfiction text that identifies pathways to success for students. For use by teachers nationwide.

4.TEACHING FROM EXPERIENCE SCREENING TOUR (fall 2013). Brings the film to teachers colleges nationwide to reach next generation of teachers, particularly Urban Education studies majors. Each screening will invite students from a local public high school and a local parent empowerment organization to foster communication between stakeholderscrucial to education reform.

We've already seen that the film is deeply resonant with working teachers and teachers-in-training, policymakers, education reform advocates, and a diverse array of stakeholders in schools and education at both the local and national level. The response to the film from those constituencies has led us to invaluable partnerships with Columbia University's Teachers College, the American Federation of Teachers, Youth On Board, and the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign. Further, we've witnessed the ways the film can be used by schools to engage those who are personally and/or vocationally invested in schools and education.

At the invitation of New York University, the film screened in April for an audience of education professors, pre-service teacher grad students at NYUs Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Development and students from a local public high school. A powerful, inspiring and informative discussion group followed the screening. Citing issues explored in the film, prospective teachers directly engaged the high school students to ask advice on subjects ranging from what makes an inspiring teacher to their thoughts on effective structure and discipline. The students also expressed newfound gratitude and appreciation for the incredible challenges their teachers face daily. It was a model event and one we hope to replicate nationwide.

With each film festival showing or article written about the film, requests for screenings keep coming in from organizations such as The Illinois Federation of Teachers; DePaul University, IL; Evanston Arts Center, Chicago; Minneapolis Public School Board of Education; Empower: Parents Organized & Working for Ed Reform, MINN; Family Learning Center, CO; SUNY at Old Westbury, NY; The Brooklyn Free School, NY; Wesleyan College, CONN; and The New School for Social Research, NY. All of these screenings will include post-film discussions of the issues upon which the film touches, and how the lessons of BCAM can inform the work and experiences of those in the room. The aforementioned partnerships and collaborations we've undertaken with national and local experts and other stakeholders in education have and will continue to shape and inform our outreach campaign.

We will ensure that we continue to reach these nontraditional film audiences by maintaining partnerships we've already established, and by continuing to work collaboratively with other likeminded organizations that share our goals many of which are already longstanding partners of our own partners. These include The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the American Association of School Administrators, National Association of Elementary School Principals, New Visions, Institute for Student achievement and the Institute for Democratic Education in America, to name just a few.

We anticipate that the role of these organizations and their staffs in our outreach campaign will be manifold, including having representatives serve as experts on panels /post-film discussions, to help provoke substantive conversation around education issues and identify ways audience members can act to benefit and support public schools, teachers and students particularly in underserved communities at both the micro and macro level, and to identify ways they can influence and advocate for good education policy and reform. We also plan to leverage the film to support the work of our partners in ways that directly serve their stated missions.

Issue: Education, Gender & Sexuality, Race & Ethnicity


Reel Education

Get Involved: It's Easy As...

  1. Request a Screening

    Let us know if you are interested in hosting a screening when the film is available

  2. Become a partner

    We're befriending great organizations, educators, and groups that can use our project as a resource as part of their good work and that can link our film to the most timely actions.

  3. Get the word out!

    Share this page to let others know about this important story.

  4. See the Film

    See where the next screening will be by clicking the button to the right.

    View Screenings
Event Name Date City State   Location Status
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 17, 2014 Charleston SC United States Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 16, 2014 Memphis TN United States Indie Memphis Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 14, 2014 Athens GA United States The Arts Council, Inc. Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 11, 2014 Tupelo MS United States Link Centre Black Box Theatre Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 10, 2014 Clinton SC United States Presbyterian College Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 09, 2014 Clemson SC United States Hendrix Student Center, McKissick Theater, Clemson University Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 08, 2014 Cullowhee NC United States UC Theater, Western Carolina University Complete
Southern Circuit Film Festival Apr 07, 2014 Johnson City TN United States Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, East Tennessee State University Complete
African Diaspora International Film Festival Dec 10, 2013 New York NY United States TBD Complete
I Have a Dream Foundation Nov 22, 2013 New York NY United States I have a Dream Foundation Complete
Maysles Cinema Continuing Ed Nov 15, 2013 New York NY United States Maysles Institute Complete
University of Colorado Social Issues in Education Film Series Nov 14, 2013 Boulder CO United States University of Colorado Complete
The New Public Teachers College Columbia University Nov 14, 2013 New York NY United States Teachers College Columbia University Russell 306 Complete
The New Public - New Bern Nov 13, 2013 New Bern NC United States New Bern Public Library Complete
Santa Cruz Film Festival Nov 10, 2013 Santa Cruz CA United States Pacific Arts Complex Complete
Harvard University - The New Public, with filmmaker Jyllian Gunther Nov 07, 2013 Cambridge MA United States Harvard University - Larsen Hall Rm 203 Complete
The New Public - UNCW Nov 07, 2013 Wilmington NC United States Watson College of Education, UNCW Room 162 Complete
DePaul University - The New Public screening Oct 30, 2013 Chicago IL United States DePaul University - Chicago Complete
The New Public film screening Oct 22, 2013 New York City NY United States IFC Center Complete
The New Public in Boone Oct 22, 2013 Boone NC United States Belk Library - Room 114 Complete
The New Public in Wilmington NC Oct 19, 2013 Wilmington NC United States North East Library Complete
San Francisco Doc Fest Jun 13, 2013 san francisco CA United States San Francisco Doc Fest Complete
Free State Film Festival Apr 26, 2013 Lawrence KS United States Free State Film Festival Complete
Minneapolis St Paul international film festival Apr 13, 2013 minneapolis MN United States Film Festival Complete
Minneapolis St Paul international film festival Apr 13, 2013 minneapolis MN United States Minneapolis St Paul Intl Film Festival Complete

Screenings Near You

Comments on this film: