Class of '27

Three communities in rural America come together against the odds, helping their children grow into successful graduates.

Class of 27 01
America ReFramed
Premiere Date
September 13, 2016
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
Rutenbeck james filmmaker bio
Executive Producer

James Rutenbeck

James Rutenbeck is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His numerous works have been screened internationally at museums and festivals, including Museum of Modern Art, Cinema du Reel, Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, National Gallery, Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, and Lussas International Film Festival, among others. James’ Show more feature-length film Scenes from a Parish won the Insight Award of Excellence in three categories from the National Association of Film and Digital Media Artists. He has also received the DuPont Columbia Journalism Award for episodic PBS programming, as well as grants from the Sundance Documentary Fund, Latino Public Broadcasting, and the Southern Humanities Media Fund. James produced, directed, and edited two half-hour films for The Raising of America, a California Newsreel project about the social ecology of child development in the U.S. Editing credits include over 50 films for PBS, BBC, Channel Four (UK), Discovery Channel, and Showtime.  Show less


Nina Alvarez

Nina Alvarez is an award-winning documentarian, journalist, and video photographer with over 20 years of experience working all over the world. She is the Senior Producer of The Naked Truth, a series of one-hour investigative documentaries for Fusion Network. She also produced and directed Sanctuary on Trial, about the Salvadoran refugee migration to Show more the United States in the 1980s triggered by US support of a military dictatorship. Nina directed Fields of Promise, a short documentary supported by ITVS about a Mexican family who follow the crops from Fresno, California to Portland Oregon. She directed and wrote The New Americans, an episode for the 2012 PBS landmark series, Latino Americans, which received a Peabody Award and the Imagen Award. Nina’s producing, writing, and directing credits also include: Very Young Girls (Showtime), The Battle for America's Schools (MSNBC), Marijuana USA (CNBC), the Oscar-nominated Which Way Home (HBO), and the Emmy-nominated Aftershock, Pakistan (MTV). In 2014, she was selected to participate in the inaugural session of the Women Filmmakers of Color Residency Program at the NALIP Artist Retreat Center in Vermont. Nina is a New York City native and learned sometime in the first grade that she was not Puerto Rican but Salvadoran American. Show less


Dustinn Craig

Dustinn Craig is an award-winning White Mountain Apache filmmaker who began his career making skateboarding films on the Reservation. He has won a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship, and was selected for a documentary fellowship at the Sundance Institute Native and Indigenous Program. Dustinn produced a feature-length documentary on the Chiricahua Show more Apache Geronimo for the PBS series We Shall Remain, as well as two short films portraying contemporary Native stories connected to the past. He also produced a personal short for the acclaimed four-part series Matters of Race. Dustinn runs the production company, White Springs Creative, LLC with his wife, Velma Kee Craig, and lives in Mesa, AZ. Show less

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The Film

On native lands of the Upper Midwest, in the hollows of Appalachia and in West Coast migrant camps, parents contemplate a compromised future for their children, facing depressed local economies and soaring dropout rates. But a growing body of research on quality child development offers hope for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Three diverse filmmaking teams set out across rural America, exploring the lives of our youngest citizens and telling the stories of families and communities coming together-- against the odds— to guide their children into successful graduates of the Class of ’27.

Class of ’27 focuses on students, educators, parents and guardians in three locations: Owsley County, KY, the poorest county in the US; along the West Coast with children of farm workers; and in White Earth Nation, the largest and poorest Native American reservation in Minnesota. Shot in observational style, the beauty and poverty of these American settings, and the challenges our youngest citizens, their families and school systems face, come into stark relief.