The Empty Classroom

(El aula vacía)
Carlos Gaviria, Daniel and Diego Vega, Eryk Rocha, Lucrecia Martel, Mariana Chenillo, Nicolas Pereda | Documentary, Fiction

2015 | 111 minutes | Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, El Salvador

To explore the dropout crisis in Latin America, creative director Gael García Bernal gathered 11 award-winning filmmakers who have created a captivating anthology of short films that delve into the underlying reasons, from poverty to societal traditions, why students aren’t graduating.


Nearly half of all young people in Latin America never finish high school. To explore this dropout crisis, creative director Gael García Bernal gathered 11 award-winning filmmakers who have created a captivating anthology of short films, both narrative and documentary. There is no easy solution to this complex issue, and each short delves into the underlying reasons, from poverty to societal traditions, why students aren’t graduating.

This omnibus feature film by reknowned filmmakers Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel (The Headless Woman) and Pablo Fendrik (Ardor), El Salvador’s Tatiana Huezo (The Tiniest Place), Mexico’s Mariana Chenillo (Pragda's own Paradise) and Nicolás Pereda (Greatest Hits), Peru’s Daniel and Diego Vega (The Mute), Uruguay’s Pablo Stoll (Whiskey), Brazil's Eryk Rocha (Cinema Novo) and Flavia Castro (Diaries, Letters, Revolutions), Colombia's Carlos Gaviria (Potraits in a Sea of Lies).

Among many issues, the short films explore the links between the dropout crisis and violence; how to identify students at risk of dropping out of school in Latin America; the lack of interest in school that is preventing students from graduating; school exclusion in indigenous communities; the not-so-typical challenges to finishing high school faced by a deaf student; the relationship between the financial cost to staying in school and its benefits; and what happens when drop out students want to go back.

Directed by Carlos Gaviria, Daniel and Diego Vega, Eryk Rocha, Lucrecia Martel, Mariana Chenillo, Nicolás Pereda, Pablo Fendrik, Pablo Stoll Ward, Tatiana Huezo.

* Spanish language audio description is available via the ALL4ACCESS App and/or .wav file when purchasing a DSL license.

Accessibility for these films was created by DICAPTA and funded under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education- Office of Special Education-OSEP, project “Enhanced Access to Video for Students with Sensory Disabilities through Emerging Technology,” TV Access H327C210001.


"With connective narration by actor Gael García Bernal, who also served as creative director of the project, this is an engaging if also somewhat scattershot overview of problems affecting graduation rates throughout Latin America today. A strong optional purchase." — F. Swietek, Video Librarian

"This important film tells the story of the educational crisis in Latin America, showcased by young Latin American filmmakers." — Marcelo Cabrol, IDB's Office of External Relations

Main credits

García Bernal, Gael (film director)
Puerto, Marta Núnez (film producer)
Fendrik, Pablo (film director)
Fendrik, Pablo (screenwriter)
Vega, Daniel (film director)
Vega, Diego (film director)
Castro, Flavia (film director)
Castro, Flavia (screenwriter)
Pereda, Nicolás (film director)
Pereda, Nicolás (screenwriter)
Martel, Lucrecia (film director)
Stoll, Pablo (film director)
Stoll, Pablo (screenwriter)
Gaviria Díaz, Carlos (film director)
Gaviria Díaz, Carlos (screenwriter)
Sánchez, Tatiana Huezo (film director)
Rocha, Eryk (film director)
Chenillo, Mariana (film director)

Other credits

Cinematography, Fergan Chávez-Ferrer; editor, Ariel Ledesma Becerra Felipe Gomez.

bullying, violence, family, school, poverty, deaf, society, social class, rural, gang, Gael Garcia Bernal, Carlos Gaviria, Daniel Vega, Diego Vega, Eryk Rocha, Flavia Castro, Lucrecia Martel, Mariana Chenillo, Nicolas Pereda, Pablo Fendrik, Pablo Stoll Ward, Tatiana Huezo, spanish, spanish language, latin america, latin american cinema, latin american film, ibero america, latin, latinx, latino, latina,,sociology, anthropology, psychology, sociological, sociological perspectives, conflict theory, human conflicts, sociological thinking,conflict perspective, topics in sociology, sociology topics, sociology studies, social studies, people and cultures, human relations, human relationships, cultural studies, culture studies ,latin american studies, caribbean american studies, island studies, latin american culture, latin american history, latin american politics, caribbean american culture, caribbean american history, caribbean american politics, latin american languages, latin american and caribbean studies, hispanic american studies, hispanic people, hispanic culture, hispanic politics,education, school, pedagogy, schooling, elementary education, secondary education, upper education, advanced education, education gap, learning, schooling, university, college, degrees, high school, middle school, junior high school, public school, private school, independent school, elementary school, schooling, school policy, educational equity,criminal justice, crime, judiciary, police reform, corrections, criminal law, judicial system, justice department, prosecution, judgement, criminal law, courts and corrections, corrections institutes,human rights, public rights, equal rights, freedom of expression, basic human rights, united nations, activism, human rights activism, human rights council, human rights commission, universal human rights, universal rights,migration studies, migrant studies, immigration studies, refugee studies, diaspora studies, resettlement studies, settlement studies, migration, migrant, immigration, refugee, diaspora, resettlement, settlement, refugees, international migration, continental migration, resettling, settlers, settler, migrant, migrant studies, first generation immigrant, first generation immigration, new americans, new spaniards,child, children, childhood, kid, girl, girlhood, boy, boyhood, teen, teenager, puberty, adolescence, adolescent, coming-of-age, minor, kiddo, kids, juvenile, stripling, moppet, tyke, tween, tot, toddler, sonny, girlie, underaged, dependent, youngster, infancy, babyhood, girlhood, boyhood, friendships, juvenescence, juvenility, springtime, early life,indigenous peoples, indigenous people, indigenous, native, native people, native peoples, aboriginal people, aboriginal, aborigine, indigene, indigeneity, tribes, tribal, tribal people, tribal peoples,disabilities, challenges, physical disability, mental disability, disadvantages, learning disability, physical disabilities, mental disabilities, learning disability, disability attorneys, disorder, disorders, disabled, disability benefits, mood disorder, anxiety disorder,body image, appearance, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, body acceptance, acceptance, body dysmorphic disorder, body dysmorphia, negative body image, distorted body image, confidence, self-esteem, self acceptance, fat acceptance, body acceptance, positive body image, negative body image, weight, fat, overweight, obesity; "The Empty Classroom"; Pragda Films
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International Film Festival of Guadalajara; UNICEF Childhood and Adolescence Award - Best Film; BAFICI Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival; AFI Latin American Film Festival; Punta del Este International Film Festival Uruguay; Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival

DIRECTOR: Carlos Gaviria, Daniel and Diego Vega, Eryk Rocha, Lucrecia Martel, Mariana Chenillo, Nicolas Pereda

NATIONALITY: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, El Salvador

YEAR: 2015

GENRE: Documentary, Fiction

LANGUAGE: Spanish; Portuguese

COLOR / B&W: Color

GRADE LEVEL: High School, College, Adults



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