THE FILM

Welcome to Commie High explores an experiment in public education—Community High School. The film follows its humanistic, anti-establishment origins in the early 70s through its survival into the 90s, when enrollment demands for this alternative, small school led to a wild craze of lines, camp outs and convoluted lottery systems. Today Community High stands as one of the last public schools from America’s “free school” movement. Filmed over the 2016 – 2017 school year, we see how the “Commie High” model has evolved to reflect the world around it and shows us what’s possible within public education when “no” is not the standard answer.

“What a gem—incredibly well done. It’s all quite compelling.”

– Carrie Hatcher-Kay, Ph.D.

Welcome to Commie High premiered as part of the 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival, March 30 – April 6, 2020. 

The film screened in a limited theatrical release at art house virtual cinemas, including:

  • The Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI
    November 20 – December 5, 2020
  • The Lark Theater, Larkspur, CA
    January 8 – 24, 2021
  • Downing Film Center, Newburgh, NY
    January 8 – 24, 2021
  • ACME Screening Room, Lambertville, NJ
    January 8 – 24, 2021
  • The Frida Cinema, Santa Ana, CA
    January 8 – 24, 2021
  • The North Park Theatre, Buffalo, NY
    January 15 – 31, 2021
  • Neptune Movie House, Long Beach, WA
    January 29 – February 14, 2021
  • The Screening Room, Newburyport, MA. Special event with the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival
    March 4, 2021 
  • Portland Museum of Art Films, Portland, ME
    February 12 – March 21, 2021
  • The Tull Family Theater, Sewickley, PA
    February 19 – March 21, 2021

“The documentary “Welcome To Commie High” is a feel-good success story centered on American public education, something you don’t hear often enough these days.”

– Dennis Perkins, Portland Press Herald

Director’s statement

I did not attend Community High School. My curiosity comes from the outside looking in. It’s a world quite different from what I experienced. I attended a well-regarded, large public high school with many good teachers. But too many students were bullied or shamed or peer pressured or got lost in a system not well-designed to support teenagers and help them develop into successful adults. I wanted to understand this different model—”Commie High”— a place built on humanistic principles; where students and parents would camp out just to attend; and so many alumni speak about how it significantly helped them develop a strong sense of self. For decades “Commie High” has withstood threats to closure, evolved within bureaucratic systems and now thrives with intense demand for its educational offerings. Yet why does it remain such an outlier in our public school system when it’s fostering the development of individuality and self-expression, a primary American value?

The crew

Donald Harrison – Producer/Director/Camera
David Camlin – Co-Producer/Editor/Camera
Ingrid Racine – Music Director/Composer
Jay Sandweiss, D.O. – Executive Producer
Luke Madden & Emma Hoffman – Assistant Editors
David Fienup – Sound Mixing
Ryan Molloy – Graphic Design

Project Advisors

Rachel DeWoskin (class of 1991)
Linda Diane Feldt (CHS class of 1976)
Paul Harrison (CHS class of 1976)
Ken McGraw (CHS teacher since 1997)
Mike Mouradian (CHS teacher 1975 – 2006)
Sara Nodjoumi (filmmaker, The Iran Job)
Davy Rothbart (class of 1992)
Kelly Stupple (CHS class of 1987)
Neda Ulaby (CHS class of 1989)
Katherine Weider-Roos (media producer/Roos Roast Coffee)
Sebastian Wreford (aka, Nitro von Borax – CHS class of 1983)
Marci Woolson (class of 1976)

Executive producers

Jay Sandweiss, D.O.
Fred Collin
Rick Kaufman
Melanie-Riley Green

SoundTrack

“Commie High Theme” and original scoring
 by Ingrid Racine & Charlie Sutherland
“Blessing” by Ingrid Racine
“Intermission” by Rosewood
“Give Nick An A” by By Wednesday
“Ethersphere” by Thom Douvan
“Oracle” by Secession
“Ice Leapt With Up Resident” by Borax
“Subvert” by The State
“Longest Year” by Third Rail
“Symphony of Eating Shit, 3rd mvt.” by Poignant Plecostomus
“(Spirit of) Leslie Kong” by Etch-A-Sketch
“Ann Arbor Part 3 & 4” by Shigeto
“Open Arms” by Blue Vinyl/Laith Al-Saadi
“Heavens” by The Left Lanes
“Unseen Forces” by Justin Walter
“Thunderstorm” by The Ninjas
“For Who” by Short Dead Dudes

STUDENT INTERNS

 Students at Community High who earned credit
assisting on the film:
Emma Hoffman          Tyler Davis-Kean
Marcelo Salas               Isaac Agronoff
Antoni Alvarez             Sam Millman
Sunday Quillen           Mark Rafaelian
Marika Chupp

Thank you Backing Underwriters

Angel Rogers Welker, Pam & Greg Davis-Kean, Jay & Sue Sandweiss, SavCo Hospitality, John Briere, Hedieh Briggs, Ruth (Calhoun) Facer, Mary Corcoran & Howard Erman, Dessous/Multiverse Hospitality, Elizabeth Barick Fall & Jeffrey Fall, Irene Fast, Adam Goodman, Michael Moore, Larry & Lucie Nisson, Josh Pokempner, Spencer PriceNash, Jeri Lynn Rosenberg & Vic Strecher, Lori & Paul Saginaw

Thank You In-Kind Organization & Business Backers

Zingerman’s, Roos Roast, Arbor Teas, Mindo Chocolate, The Brinery, UM Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, Elmo’s T-Shirts

Thank YOU 450 Kickstarter Backers

Aaron Valdez, Ace Anbender, Adam & Gillian Gainsley, Adam Goodman, Adam Kasha, Adam Melis, Adrianna Jordan, Alan & Lisa Dengiz, Alan Botts, Alan Levy & Susan Pollans, Alex Hencken, Alex Smoller, Alice Collins-Thompson, Alison K. Landau & Peter C. Tsangaris, Allan G. Feldt, Amanda Scotese, Amy McKibben Cormier, Amy Hughes, Amy Klinke, Amy Nesbitt, Amy Smith, Andra Artemova, Andreas L. Hug, Andrew Epstein, Andrew Thomas Kuster, Andrew Wilhelme, Anita Baker-Blocker, Ann Arbor Community Acupuncture, Anna Danziger Halperin, Anna Eley, Anna Goldman, Anna Sampson & Daniel Herbert, Anna Steinhoff, Anne Carr, Anonymous(x3), Ari Litman-Weinberg, Ari Weinzweig, Arthur & Nancy Brickman, Athena Anteau, Barbara & Ron Kramer, Barbara Simmons, Ben Evans, Ben Glass, Ben Jenkins & Brenna Reichman, Ben Mancell, Ben Mullins, Ben Nimkin, Ben Winter, Beth Barclay, Beth Farnham, Bill Emerson, Billie Ochberg & Sandro Cinti, Bob & Barb Dinan, Bob and Deb Merion, Bobbi Chase Wilding, Bobbie Tucker, Brad Jodoin, Brenda Reed, Brian Robb, Brian Tomsic, Brianna Kenyon, Brittanie Leibold, Bryan Beecher & Deborah Evans, Caitlin H., Caitlin Magee, Candace Roberts, Carolyn & Gioacchino Balducci, Cary McWilliam, Cassidy Durkee, Catherine Thursby, Cathy Bolton, Ce Ce Chin, Charlotte Pagni [Barak], Charo Ledón, Cheryl & Mike Grace, Chloe, Chris Dzombak, Chris Goosman, Chris Sandon, Christen Lien, Christina Morales Hemenway, Christina Hover (Tabaczka), Christina Richason, Christopher Pannier, Claire Mannle’s mom, Clint Wallace, Colleen Sherman, Collin McRae, Cynthia Nicely, Cyrus Morshidi, Daniel Mayman, Danny Plotnick, Dave Miller, Dave Morris, Dave Pekarek Krohn, David Bergman, David Gilbertson, David Heitler-Klevans, David Lamb, David Olson, David Santamaria, David Welgus, David Zinn, Davy Rothbart, Deborah Greer, Deborah Kraus, Deidre Santella, Devon Rose Atwood, Donna Eis, Doug Scott, Douglas Allen, Ela Greenberg, Eli Neiburger, Elise Fish, Ellen Lamphiear, Emilia Javanica & Sudandyo Aprilianto, Emily Brown, Eric Bradley, Erica Stephan, Erin A. 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And thanks to additional PROjECT donors

Adam Melis • Anonymous • Archie O’Connor • Betsy King • Dan Bruell • Emma, Dane, Patty & Bob Hoffman • Eva Rosenwald & Chris Taylor • Gay MacGregor • Ingrid Ankerson • Ivan Kral & Cindy Hudson • Judy Freedman Kalyan Bani Kaur • Kelly Stupple • Kristin Chiles • Michael Appel & Ruth Kraut • Michael Stack • Nagourney/Liberman Family • Renee Rutz        Reena Liberman • Richard & Myra & Max Klarman • Sandra Danziner • Sarah & James Douglass • Shary Brown • Sylvia Meerten • The Danziger Family • Thomas Douvan • Toko Shiiki • Applied Fitness Solutions • Arbor Teas • Big Sky Recording • The Brinery • Cisco – Bright Funds • Elmo’s T-Shirts • Mindo Chocolate Makers • Roos Roast • Team Rehab • Vie Fitness & Spa