In “Accepted,” director Dan Chen takes us into the world of TM Landry, a private Louisiana school whose videos of African-American students collecting Ivy League college receipts once went viral. But nine months after the filmmakers’ first visit to the school, DailyExpertNews ran reports of physical abuse, falsified transcripts and “cultish” behavior on the part of its founders, Mike and Tracey Landry. Viewers of “Accepted” get a front row seat to the life-changing impact of the school’s unraveling through the stories of four promising high school students: Adia, Alicia, Cathy and Issac.
As we witness both the documentary’s subjects – and the director – navigate a shocking development in real time, a quietly penetrating film emerges that shatters the myth of American meritocracy.
Chen chooses to plod along at the same measured pace all the time – even after the TM Landry scandal has come to light – and forgo the cryptic score we’re used to hearing when the mold runs out. Likewise, Chen and Daphne Qin Wu’s cinematography moves seamlessly between intimate handheld shots and aerial shots of western Louisiana landscapes reflecting the eventual loss of access to the Landrys and the school.
Ultimately, it’s the resilience of the teen subjects in the film that takes ‘Accepted’ to new heights. As they sit for close-ups in front of a swirling blue backdrop, the Georgetown and Stanford sweatshirts are gone, and the hopes they once represented are gone. But instead, there’s a clear understanding of the misguided pressures placed on individual minority students to succeed in a society that systematically disadvantages them, and a surprisingly powerful story of making peace with imperfection.
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV providers.