Directed by Timothy Hotchner
Special Jury Prize, Seattle International Film Festival
Best Feature Documentary, Rhode Island International Film Festival
Accelerating America tells the story of a revolutionary school in Rhode Island that gives inner-city youths who are at risk of dropping out a second chance by accelerating their studies. At the head of the school is a fearless principal, Robert DeBlois, who as a quadriplegic knows something about overcoming adversity.
If the word “inspiring” gets overused, it rarely feels as apt as when watching DeBlois apply his tough love educational techniques on hardened teens. We watch three students — America, Jason and Yazmine — as they struggle through a make-or-break year, drawing upon conviction, pride and humor in order to survive.
At the center of the film is a revolutionary school, UCAP, founded by inspiring principal Robert DeBlois. Despite his own physical limitations as a quadriplegic, he tirelessly devotes himself to saving his 130 students. His school, the only one of its kind, offers failing middle school kids confronted with poverty, drugs, gangs and jail a chance to catch-up to their peers by completing two grades in one year. Director Timothy Hotchner spends a year following Mr. DeBlois, his staff and three students — America, Yazmine and Jason — as they attempt to overcome their chaotic home lives and troubled pasts. Of the three, only two of the kids make it. With its intimate look at the complex lives of inner-city youth and their fearless principal, Accelerating America is a highly engaging story of survival and redemption despite the odds.
THE FILMMAKER: Timothy Hotchner is an award-winning NY based filmmaker. He got his start writing screenplays and studying acting while directing and producing videos and short documentaries. Over a decade later, he’s produced, directed and filmed more than 100 productions ranging from commercials to feature films. Credits include Americares, winner of a 2007 CINE Golden Eagle Award, which tells several stories from Darfur, Guatemala, and the post-tsunami relief effort in Indonesia, and Hole in the Wall Gang, a New York Festivals World Gold Medal winning doc about children who find a lasting refuge despite battling life-threatening illnesses.
His work has aired on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Jane Pauley Show, CBS Sunday Morning, Larry King Live, Bravo Profiles, and the Fox Movie Channel. He has also segment produced for Disney and 20th Century Fox, and for documentaries such as Tell Them Who You Are, directed by Mark Wexler. Hotchner has been a cinematographer on projects including The Price of Sugar, one of 15 films short-listed for a 2008 Academy Award nomination, Hearne Texas, a short film on the drug war and racial profiling in small-town America, and Behind The Scenes of Empire Falls, for HBO. He is a graduate of Brown University, where he studied english, education and theater.