"Alright, who is a teacher?" director Mike Akel asked before the screening of Chalk, an eagerly anticipated opening film on Thursday night. "Raise 'em high..."
Hundreds of moviegoers in the packed Wisconsin Union Theater quickly raised their hands. The teacher-filled crowd did not prove hard to win over; from the very first shot, the crowd erupted in laughter that hinted at relief as if, finally, someone understood. Apparently the foibles of paper cutters and tensions in the teachers' lounge translate well on screen.
Chalk was clearly a work of love for the Austin-based Akel and Chris Mass, who directed, acted and co-wrote the film together, respectively.
Teachers themselves, they based their faux documentary in the inherent hilarity that comes from the world of high school education. Using scripted improve, real students, and the high school that Akel worked in himself, the movie is indeed uncomfortably hilarious. Highlighting the seemingly impassable gulf between the teacher and the teenager, the movie provided such educational poster-worthy tidbits as a comparison between target practice and teaching.
"You do your best, but you're not going to get every kid," says Mass's Mr. Stroope, as he leaves a few of the targets he was shooting at intact.