I watched the NFF film Pressure Cooker which was produced in 2008 and takes place in Philadelphia. Pressure Cooker is directed by Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman and features students from Frankford High School.
Pressure Cooker is a documentary that tells the story of three seniors in a poor neighborhood in Northeastern Philadelphia, that struggle to rise against their familial and personal situations to compete for scholarships through their culinary class. Erica is a peppy cheerleader who misses out on a lot of life experiences because she has to take care of her 15 year old sister, who is physically handicapped and blind. Dudley is a football player who lives with a single mom who struggles to keep them in a home. Fatoumata is a recent immigrant from Africa whose dad controls every aspect of her life. All three students are enrolled in a culinary arts class at their high school, which allows them at the end of the year to compete for college scholarships ranging from a few thousand dollars to a full ride, which could be upwards of sixty thousand dollars. The culinary teacher Mrs. Stephenson is a hard teacher to please, she is the terror of every student caught out of line or in the halls when they aren’t supposed to be, but with her culinary students they are her family, she buys them dress shirts, sets them up with dates for prom, and provides encouragement as they battle through the scholarship competition.
Pressure Cooker is seamlessly produced and allows you to follow the students from the culinary classroom, to other classes, to football or cheerleading practice, and even back home to see their families and their poverty. The film balances the three different students’ perspectives, as well as that of Mrs. Stephenson, very well. By the end of the film I felt connected to all of the students and the presentation of scholarships was one of the most nervous moments of my life, I was sitting glued to the T.V. hoping that Erica, Dudley, and Fatoumata would get exactly what they wanted.
Pressure Cooker is a truly inspiring film that teaches teenagers that nothing is out of your reach no matter how impossible or difficult it may seem. I would recommend this film to anyone 13+. There is nothing in it that would stop little kids from watching it, but really in order to understand its meaning you should at least be in high school, or have gone through it already.
- Delaney M.
July 5th, 2009
Pressure Cooker @ Northwest Film Forum
July 10th - 16th
Watch the trailer: