Chalk (2008) Film Review

Chalk is the latest release by Morgan Spurlock, so one is immediately pre-disposed to having opinions about it due to the fact that Supersize Me was so controversial. Although entertaining, Chalk is flawed in a most significant way: it comes off as a documentary when, in fact, it is not one. Its tagline, “Real teaching leaves a mark,” is extremely misleading.

At the time, I figured the film was a documentary. But I couldn’t help but wonder how some of the scenes were caught on camera, as having a camera in a classroom would certainly cause students and teachers to act differently. It wasn’t until I came home and double-checked that it began to make sense — the names of the teachers don’t match up with the names of the actors and actresses who played them so convincingly. It was a most disappointing discovery.

Four teachers were the primary subjects of the movie, and Chalk showed most of them in their classroom environments or in a teacher break room. Class sizes were tiny, quite unlike those of a real school.

Amongst the more notable teachers in the movie are Mr. Lowrey, played by Troy Schremmer, and Mr. Stroope, played by Chris Mass. Mr. Lowrey was a former engineer turned first-year teacher, and the focus was largely on his awkward stylings and numerous mistakes. He was probably the most actualized character, though, as he grew and changed throughout the movie. Although teaching was something that frustrated him at first, he began to like it and appreciate his students. He seemed to be the only teacher who actually learned from his students.

Mr. Stroope, the History teacher, wanted nothing more than to become Teacher Of The Year, and stopped only at threatening students who were smarter than him. Unlike Mr. Lowrey, he was relatively static throughout the movie — staying as the same determined, tempremental teacher that he started out as.

The movie is just short-term entertainment and is not at all life-changing, particularly because it’s not real. This small bit of relatively minor deception actually made quite an impact on me on the viewer… perhaps at some point someone will be able to make a documentary on the real trials and tribulations of teaching.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

In 2017, Vee released the narrative short film, Searching Skies — which touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States — and co-organized The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. 2022 sees the release of their next short film, Reckless Spirits, which is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature film.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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