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Still Waters

A remarkable one-room school in Brooklyn is facing a tough year. It's the run up to the US presidential election and anti-Latino rhetoric is ramped up--an extra source of tension for a hard-pressed Hispanic community already threatened by gentrification and eviction.

The school, Still Waters in a Storm, is the creation of Yale grad Stephen Haff. A passionate critic of mainstream education, he believes in the joy of learning without tests and the innate creativity of children and insists that the school is free. It survives precariously on the thinnest of shoestrings.

When regular school finishes, Still Waters starts working. Stephen and his group of children explore, with the help of illustrious guest writers like twice Booker Prizewinner Peter Carey, the power of storytelling, creativity and community. And along the way they discuss Donald Trump and gentrification with humor and passion.

Filmed over a year STILL WATERS follows this compelling man, his philosophy, the spirit of the children who attend, and the dreams and fears of their immigrant Hispanic community.

'What an amazing documentary! This is an intimate journey into the life of a learning community and the teacher who inspires children to write and their families to find hope. Anyone working in schools or thinking of what matters about education should watch Still Waters. It left me full of hope for the possibilities of teaching and the hope for an education that matters to everyone and not just the privileged.' Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Professor of Counseling Psychology, Director of Family Therapy Program, University of Massachusetts

'Still Waters is an important and beautiful film: a testimony to the ways individuals and educators can help create a sense of belonging and hope among America's immigrant children. Profoundly thoughtful about the current state of education and society, this film can serve as a resource to provoke discussion about how we engage community, educate children, and support justice in today's challenging climate.' Dr. Tori Derr, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, California State University-Monterey Bay

'Still Waters describes an after-school program in Brooklyn that serves as a refuge for children who are recent immigrants to the United States...Their writing, reading, and Latin studies validate their own imaginations, their intelligence, and their capacity to think about questions fundamental to human identity and meaning. If you want to expand your sense of the educationally possible, watch this film.' Greg Smith, Professor Emeritus, Teacher Education, Lewis and Clark College, Author, Place-Based Education: Learning to Be Where We Are


Main credits

Gordon, Peter (film director)
Gordon, Peter (cinematographer)
Lalić, Ann (film producer)
Haff, Stephen (on-screen participant)

Other credits

Editor, William Ennals; music, Adult Jazz.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Child Development
Language Arts
Latin American Studies
Migration and Refugees
Social Psychology


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