Lindsey Seavert and Ben Garvin, Directors of Love Them First Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary

Courtesy of KARE 11

Courtesy of KARE 11

The film was directed and reported by Ben Garvin and Lindsey Seavert. Garvin is a photojournalist at KARE11 who co-directed the documentary alongside Seavert, a reporter and storyteller at KARE11. They chose to work on the project after having had separate interactions with Friestleben and the Lucy Laney community while reporting on other stories.

About the Film

Winner of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival’s Best of Fest award, Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary is coming to Mt. Sterling. The Gateway Regional Arts Center is hosting a screening with the film directors, Lindsey Seavert and Ben Garvin, who will present a Q&A with the audience following the screening. The public is invited to attend on October 23rd.

“We’ve always been at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom,” says a teacher in the film. Love Them First follows a charismatic school principal, Mauri Melander Friestleben, as she works to undo two decades of history and close the achievement gap for her students in a Minneapolis school system.

“Some of [the students] have very valid reasons to feel hopeless,” says Friestleben, “but I choose hope … They are children. They’re pure. And imagine if we, as a society, loved them first.” Under her leadership, standardized test scores began rising for the first time, but when the school encounters a heartbreaking setback, Friestleben is forced to confront the true measure of student success at Lucy Laney in a story of inspiration, heartbreak, perseverance and the power of love.

“Minnesota struggles with the largest achievement gap between black and white students in the nation,” Seavert and Garvin say in a director’s statement, “but every community has a failing school. We hope that by opening up a window into a world few often see, our audience will think more critically about the inequities and injustices students of color contend with in classrooms every day, especially when it comes to standardized testing, the nation’s yardstick for measuring underperforming schools.”

This event is made possible through the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, a South Arts program. Since its inception in 1975, Southern Circuit has brought some of best independent filmmakers and their films from around the country to communities throughout the South. The program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.