Try Harder!

USA202182 minEnglish, Chinese with English subtitlesCanadian PremiereDocumentary, Women Filmmakers

At a top-ranking educational institution like Lowell High School in San Francisco, seniors are emotionally exhausted as they prepare for the rigorous application process to get accepted to one of their dream Ivy League universities. With opaque and reductive college admission criteria, the students navigate every aspect of their merits, ranging from extracurricular activities, comparing grades with their peers, and even reflecting on their own racial or class identities. 

Debbie Lum's sophomore feature film is a disarmingly humorous deconstruction of overachievers trying to find their way through an agonizing and fastidious selection system. Torn between personal, filial, and societal responsibilities, this documentary humanizes and channels a lighthearted encounter with five of the gifted students at Lowell. As charming and well rounded the film's approach is, the narrative is also a sharp commentary, aiming at the persisting issues of race, stereotypes, and privilege in America’s exclusive schools. 

- Rolando Basmayor



Sundance Film Festival, 2021

CAAMFest Opening Night Presentation, 2021

AFI Docs, 2021



Audience Award, San Diego Asian Film Festival, 2021

Best Documentary (Family), Doc Edge, 2021

Director Bio

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 (Reel Asian 2012), her feature-length directing debut premiered at SXSW, aired on PBS’ Independent Lens and won awards, including Best of Fest (Silverdocs), Best Feature Documentary (CAAMFest) and Outstanding Director (Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival).


10 Nov, 2021

to 19 Nov, 2021





Closed Cqptions symbol  This presentation has closed captions.

This presentation has English subtitles.

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