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About The Cartel | Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can't read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool's first graduating class.Together,… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"With its clunky chalkboard chapters and a parade of static talking heads too often repeating the filmmaker's underlying theme of political corruption and union myopia, it's a C theatrical experience. Maybe a C+ for right intentions."
‑ Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post
"Bowdon makes an insufferable first impression, and his movie often looks as if it were shot with a camera-phone (for good measure, he includes actual camera-phone footage, which admittedly looks worse than his)."
‑ Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
"But this amateurish, ultimately poorly argued documentary isn't likely to convert many of those on the fence on this issue."
‑ Ian Buckwalter, DCist
"You may not agree with the solutions offered in The Cartel but it's impossible not to be outraged at the corruption on display."
‑ Christian Toto, What Would Toto Watch?
"The question, "Is our children learning," has never seemed a more appropriate statement for the state of education in the United States."
‑ Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies
"The film -- for which Bowdon directed, wrote, narrated, produced, operated a camera, composed music and sang -- spends a little too much time on static shots of flickering computer screens filled with gray text, and it has the look of cheap video."
‑ Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post
"Bowdon makes a compelling argument against the defensive maneuvers of teachers' unions and in favor of vouchers and charter schools, but his documentary is no exercise in free-market cant."
‑ J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader
"In The Cartel, New Jersey public schools are an example of what's going wrong in U.S. school systems generally, despite a "spending explosion.""
‑ Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters
"Anyone who gets a thrill out of town meetings may salivate at what Bowdon throws at viewers, which is all statistics and wonkery."
‑ Tricia Olszewski, Washington City Paper
"Bowdon believes fervently in school choice, and brings his argument to theaters at a time when the tectonic plates in the stratified debate are shifting violently."
‑ Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News
"There are plenty of legitimate grievances here, but like Michael Moore at his pushiest, Bowdon often undermines his own argument with obvious factual cherry-picking."
‑ Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Watching this film, you'd think that most public schools were Mafia-run slaughterhouses and most charter schools were urban academies with high success rates. Bowdon barely mentions the religiosity and profit motive behind some charter schools."
‑ Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
" will more likely find yourself annoyed by this documentary's similarity to a series of television segments pasted together and stretched out to 90 minutes..."
‑ Sarah Boslaugh, Playback:stl
"If it played on New Jersey TV, I bet The Cartel would open some eyes, but as Bowdon tries to parlay a very local issue into a nationally released movie, it's more likely to close them."
‑ Chris Hewitt (St. Paul), St. Paul Pioneer Press
"It makes no sense to approach a nationwide issue with such a limited focus."
‑ Matt Pais,
More reviews for Cartel on Rotten Tomatoes