‘Waiting For Superman’ Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

We present the facts about this incisive education-themed documentary from Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim so you don't have to cram.

After his last filmmaking effort, “An Inconvenient Truth,” took the Oscar for Best Documentary, director Davis Guggenheim had the bar set rather high for his future projects. He seems to have met the challenge as his latest work, “Waiting for Superman,” has been generating awards-show buzz and serious acclaim since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival early this year. (“Superman” won the fest’s Documentary Audience Award.)

MTV News has been following the poignant film, from its start at Sundance to the debut of the first trailer, and even logged some conversation time with Guggenheim. The arresting documentary finally arrived in theaters on Friday (September 24), and we’ve gathered all the facts you need to know.

First of all, what’s all the fuss about? The film takes a long, hard look at the state of America’s public school system, following five students in various U.S. cities who are struggling to get a quality education. It also features commentary from several leaders in the education field: philanthropist Bill Gates; Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, New York; and Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools.

When the film traveled to Park City, Utah, in January 2010 for Sundance, it was quickly snatched up by Paramount Vantage, becoming the festival’s first official sale, days before it even premiered there. “Superman” went on to win the Documentary Audience Award.

Four months later we got our eyes on the first trailer, and three months after that, MTV partnered with the Get Schooled campaign to host a screening of the film for members of various Chicago youth groups

Shortly thereafter, as part of our Fall Movie Preview, we had an insightful chat with Guggenheim about education reform, the reasons MTV viewers should care about their neighborhood schools and what the average person can do to sustain the conversation he hopes to start with this film. Leading up to the film’s release, Guggenheim took the film and its important message — joined by Bill Gates and chancellor Rhee of the Washington, D.C., school district — to “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

This week, MTV News hit up the Los Angeles premiere of “Waiting for Superman” on the famed Paramount lot. There, Guggenheim celebrated with VIPs like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Cheryl Hines and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“This movie has got to be a catalyst for real change,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s got to do for education what ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ did for climate change and the struggle to educate people about global warming. This is the pre-eminent challenge facing America. It is the civil-rights issue of our time. When you look at the kids in urban schools, the level with which they’re dropping out and the abysmal success rate of our urban public schools.”

On the lighter side of things, but still in the spirit of “Superman,” we made a list of our favorite fictional schools over at the MTV Movies Blog, where Hogwarts and “Back to the Future” ‘s Hill Valley earned nods.

What’s your opinion on the education issues raised by “Waiting for Superman”? We want to hear what you think in the comments!

Check out everything we’ve got on “Waiting for Superman.”

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