The Cartel busts at the seams with factiods, none of them encouraging. Considering the whole film seeks to indict a corrupt system of nepotism and malfeasance that consumes mass amounts of taxpayer money you’re not likely to walk out of The Cartel whistling Dixie, especially if you have kids in a public school.

Filmmaker Bob Bowdon has a bone to pick with the American educational system and he comes armed to the hilt with accounts of how money and jobs are squandered. His approached is straight forward interview style, sometimes talking to teachers who’ve lost their jobs because they spoke out, other times tossing out tough questions to teacher union leaders. The film has a no-nonsense almost low-fi look accented by digitally shot footage. If it weren’t for the plethora of details The Cartel would play better on the small screen. Yet the overwhelming decline of schools makes the subject compelling enough for the big screen.

Be prepared to take notes because the talking points come fast and heavy. If the script was published it could be a master’s thesis it’s so verbose. You will know the difference between, say, a charter school and a private school and a magnet school. But more importantly you’ll have an inkling why American education is ranked among the lowest of civilized nations. While Bowdon claims the figures are relevant to schools in every state his study focuses on New Jersey.

Bowdon will make an appearance with his film and hold a Q&A afterwards at the Friday evening screenings (April 23 at the Angelika Film Center downtown).

— Michael Bergeron