HD, feature film, color, 2015.

The bell rings.  School's out, but not for Lydia, a weathered LA high school teacher, and her class of five angry, troubled teenage girls who’ve spent years being shuffled in and out of foster homes and juvenile detention. 

Derrick is a handsome filmmaker at Lydia's school shooting a documentary he swears is 'important.”  While most of the school is energized by the attention, Lydia is suspicious of both Derrick’s motives for filming her students and his awkward advances.  Lydia's conflicts with the school administrators, her students, and Derrick, push her to the breaking point, until the murder of one of her students sends the entire school into shock.

Emotionally overwhelmed, and looking toward Derrick for comfort, Lydia watches some video clips of her students that reveal a side of them she has never seen.  What she sees transforms her, affecting her perception of her place in the world.  Emboldened, Lydia decides to force her students to confront their fears and frustration by giving them the writing assignment: What would you do if you found a gun? 

Lydia's girls confront their lives through their stories, and realize that real power comes not from a gun, but from their ability to free themselves from the limits of their pasts through their imagination.  But even a homework assignment can have real life consequences.

With a diverse ensemble cast, reflecting the real world it portrays through the layered complexity of its characters, the film transcends typical one-dimensional stereotypes, illuminating the potential of  “at-risk” youth...and their teachers.

Gold Stars marks the first feature of writer/director/producer Nori Takei, who wrote the script after a teaching stint at a Los Angeles special ed high school.  Filmed in HD, the cinematic look of the film alternates between de-saturated coolness to the colorful “video” documentary scenes, juxtaposing the perspectives and each character’s persona on and off camera.  The soundtrack is a mix of contemporary score by composer Jesse Voccia and hip-hop infused source music by up-and-coming artists.  Gold Stars was shot on-location in Los Angeles, primarily at a working high school in Inglewood.