Asian-Canadian writer/director Li Dong‘s debut feature film, Stealing School, spotlights systematic racism through the eyes of a female Asian student at a prestigious university. The satirical courtroom comedy-drama will be released on U.S. digital platforms February 26, 2021.
From Vertical Entertainment, 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.
April, a brilliant programmer with a promising future, is accused of plagiarism by Keith, a teaching assistant who drags her in front of an academic hearing to prevent her from graduating. While operating under the guise of an impartial panel, the three tribunal judges each have their own illicit motivations and personal biases that will secretly steer the course of the trial.
By aggressively questioning a colorful group of witnesses, both April and Keith build their cases while becoming increasingly acrimonious towards each other. As tensions rise, the facade of civility and political correctness begins to erode, revealing sinister and unflattering sides of all parties concerned.
Behind the closed doors of a prestigious institution of higher learning, what began as a seemingly honorable pursuit of justice slowly turns into a chaotic display of corruption, pettiness and naked self-interest.
Releasing in a moment of time when systemic racism issues in North America have come to the forefront of conversations, through the story of one trial, the film explores a myriad of controversial and pressing issues involving race, gender, uneasy power dynamics, the questionable value of a liberal arts education in a fastly-globalizing, tech-dominated workforce and the mysterious world of academia behind closed doors.
Li Dong harnessed his own experiences of systematic racism and his time at law school to write, direct, and produce the film.
Of his feature debut film, Li Dong says: “Like many immigrant children, I was raised to believe that the prestigiousness of a person’s career directly correlated with how good of a person they were, morally speaking. I was also raised to believe that no such prestigious career would be attainable without first paying for the privilege of a university education.
“Finally, I was told that my own race and appearance would have no effect on my future prospects in life, or on how people treated me here in Canada. At some point during my life, I realized these were all lies.
“This film is about my revelation at the bold hypocrisy that pervades throughout the esteemed institution of higher education, and indeed perhaps all western institutions held in high regard. Despite the potentially weighty subject matter however, my first and foremost aim is for Stealing School to be fun and entertaining!”