Stealing School is a 2020 indepedent film written and directed by Li Dong. It was released on VOD services in the US on February 26 and stars Celine Tsai and Jonny Keltz.
Stealing School captures the modern-day anxieties of a generation currently facing uncertain futures. Told through the story of April Chen (Celine Tsai), an Asian-Canadian tech prodigy accused of plagiarism by her teaching assistant (Jonny Keltz), and forced to stand trial a week before graduation.
Complex and layered relationships unfold, and racial tensions and systemic biases are exposed as the trial unravels, forcing viewers to question their ideas of innocence.
Stealing School takes a small easy to understand premise concentrating on this academic hearing. Then it injects an incredible amount of drama into the proceedings.
Like any good mystery what stars as a straightforward he said/she said and then like an onion we just learn more and more about what is going on.I made and discarded several theories on the relationship between April and Keith.
All the major players have ties, interests and obligations that rear up throughout the film to generally make things more complicated.
The thing that keeps the film fresh and interesting past the initial premise are the interesting witnesses we meet. These witnesses reveal more than just their testimony they also have much to say about the nature of modern academia.
As someone who has taken part in academic processes before, things here are not exactly strictly by the book. Here the flexible approach makes things much more interesting as a viewer.
Very few of the cast are what they initially seem to be and the end which definitely offers more insight came as a total surprise for me. Getting little hints here and there that later payoff is a lot of fun in a film like this.
Celine Tsai excels as lead, April is so much more than she appears. The film points out that what we expect of her says more about our pre-conceived ideas than the character. Keith is a man on a mission even if I do question why he goes so far.
I went to university at a time where raised tuitions and other fundamental changes to degrees turned students into customers. This film reminded me of that time even with it being set on the other side of the Atlantic.