Try Harder!

At a prestigious public high school with a majority Asian American student body, high achieving seniors share the dream, and the stress, of getting into a top university.

Lowell High School students
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
May 2, 2022
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2021 Independent Spirit Awards-Truer Than Fiction Award
  • Producer/Director

    Debbie Lum

    Debbie Lum explored cultural stereotypes in My Tiger Mom and in the award-winning Seeking Asian Female, which was a SXSW Film Festival official selection. She directed and produced two short documentaries for Wayne Wang about his early two works, Chan Is Missing and Dim Sum. She also co-produced and edited the award-winning Kelly Loves Tony, which aired Show more on the PBS series, POV and played at festivals internationally.

    Her documentary editing credits include, among others, To You Sweetheart Aloha (winner of Audience Award at the VC LA Film Festival) and the acclaimed a.k.a. Don Bonus (winner of a National Emmy), which aired on POV. She also wrote and directed the fictional films Chinese Beauty, A Great Deal! and One April Morning. Show less

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    The Film

    San Francisco’s Lowell High, one of the best public schools in the country, draws high achievers--nearly 70% Asian Americans--from across the city into a fiercely competitive universe. The camera follows seniors through the hallways and into classrooms as the pressure intensifies to impress admissions officers at elite universities with their report cards, test scores, and overall awesomeness. The students proudly own their identity as nerds and tell their stories with candor and humor despite the stress. The film asks: How do these kids define their identities outside of acceptance letters?