"Love Them First" follows a Minneapolis school where more than 80 percent of students live near or below the poverty line. When the school encounters a heartbreaking setback, principal Mauri Friestleben is forced to confront the true measure of student success in a story about inspiration, heartbreak, perseverance and the power of love.
“The film offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of the passionate educators in Minneapolis Public Schools and beyond. It is our hope viewers see the film not as Lucy Laney's story—but the story of us all," said Friestleben.
"Love Them First" started as a series of news stories developed by KARE 11 reporter Lindsey Seavert and photojournalist Ben Garvin. The duo spearheaded a pilot project to turn the series into a full-length documentary with support from KARE 11 and its parent company TEGNA. The year-long project invites viewers to witness the purity and force of love transforming the school and its students.
"The film is a window into a world that not many see," said Seavert. "Our unprecedented access to the school over one year enabled us to take viewers on an emotional journey of resilience and hope."
"Journalists have real power to shine a light on people who are doing good," said Ben Garvin. "And Mauri is an example of a woman who is changing the world."
The film has since gone on to win numerous International Film Festival accolades including, Best MN (Minneapolis) Made Documentary, Audience Choice: New American Visions Documentary, Winner of the 2019 Colorado International Activism Film Festival and Winner of the 2019 The Great Lakes State Film Festival. In addition, it has been awarded a 2019 Official Selection at the upcoming Southern Circuit Tour, South Texas International Film Festival and the Scottsdale International Film Festival.
Q&A following moderated by Joyce Elliott, with co-director