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Review: My Name is Pedro

— by BEV QUESTAD —

The guy is lovingly mistaken for Jesus with his dark wavy long hair, lovely smile, and golden face full of light, love and energy. The kids line the halls reaching for his hand. This used to be the assistant superintendent of secondary education for The East Ramapo Central School District, located in Rockland County, New York, before he was booted out by a religious cartel on the School Board.

“My name is Pedro” tells the story of Pedro Santana. His father was in and out of jail and he regularly accompanied his mother, who had six kids, to the welfare office. He had a stutter and struggled so hard academically he was placed in special education classes.

But he did have at least one teacher who believed in him. And as Pedro grew into an adult and became a teacher himself, he practiced what his teacher had done for him. He believed in his students.

By 2010, he was on the cover of a section of The New York Times where Lillian LaSalle noticed his story. By the time this first-time filmmaker had the cameras rolling, Pedro had climbed from principal to an assistant superintendent.

He visits classrooms, he walks the halls, he models a kind of 24/7 compassion and care with both students and their parents. It’s admirable, but is it sustainable? Can he ever be home with his own family?

LaSalle might have been dazzled by her charismatic subject. Not everything is fully explained in the film. What were all the reasons Pedro was relieved of his position? Where was his wife? How could he get away with so much affectionate physical contact with students and staff alike? Why did he have to serve jail time before the charge was finally dropped?

After graduation from Utica College, Santana was a Peace Corps worker in Kenya. He earned his Masters degree from Columbia University and was with the American Refugee Committee in Africa. Students and parents both loved him. But a parallel story goes on in “My Name is Pedro” and it involves the school board.

Winner of a Best Documentary award at the Golden Door International Film Festival, the Spotlight on Documentary Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival, and Audience Awards from both the Chicago Latino International Film Festival and the Brooklyn Film Festival, “My Name is Pedro” may not answer all questions, but it showcases a beloved teacher.



Credits

Director: Lillian LaSalle
Producers: Jonathan Clasberry and Lillian LaSalle
Executive Producer: Mike Fowler
Featuring: Pedro Santana, Ms Yvonne Torres, Mimi Santana, Eric Santana, Black Pete, Cassandra Edwards, Aasif Mandvi, Christian Campbell, Isaiah Thomas, Black Thought, and Rosie Perez
Editors: Mark Demolar and Mary Manhardt
Released: 17 September 2020
Where to see: Amazon, Apple TV, iTunes, GooglePlay, Youtube, Vimeo On Demand and FandangoNOW.
Website: https://mynameispedro.com

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