Try Harder! by Debbie Lum
Try Harder! by Debbie Lum, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Lou Nakasako.

Ahead of its online World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition, the first trailer debuted for Debbie Lum’s Try Harder!. The documentary follows seniors at Lowell High School in San Francisco as the pressure intensifies to impress admissions officers at elite universities with their report cards, test scores, and overall awesomeness.

With heart and humor, Lum follows seniors at Lowell High School in San Francisco, one of the best public schools in the country that draws high achievers — nearly 70% Asian Americans — as they attempt to impress college admissions officers at elite universities in an attempt to get into the best universities in the country. The kids in the film are inspirations and the film examines the intersection of class, race, and educational opportunity as experienced by high school seniors living through it. Try Harder! is a portrait of young adults in the most diverse American generation ever as they navigate a quintessential rite of passage and make it their own.

Director/Producer Debbie Lum Debbie Lum is an award-winning San Francisco-based filmmaker whose projects give voice to the Asian American experience and other unsung stories. Seeking Asian Female, her feature-length directing debut premiered at SXSW, aired on PBS’ Independent Lens and won numerous awards, including Best of Fest (Silverdocs), Best Feature Documentary (CAAMFest) and Outstanding Director (Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival). It was also profiled on PRI’s This American Life. The film was a “fan favorite” on PBS and alongside its broadcast premiere, Lum launched theyreallsobeautiful.com, a companion website and 5-part short video series about race and dating. Previously she worked as a documentary editor; her editing credits include A.K.A Don Bonus (winner, National Emmy), Kelly Loves Tony (nominee, IDA Best Documentary), which she also co-produced and To You Sweetheart, Aloha (winner, Audience Award, VC LA Film Festival). She has also written and directed several short comedies, Chinese Beauty, A Great Deal! and One April Morning, which screened at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival among many others. She has an M.F.A in Cinema from San Francisco State University, a B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and completed the CPB Producer’s Workshop at WGBH.

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