Debbie Lum

Nominated for Truer Than Fiction Award


Director: Try Harder!


At Lowell High School, the top public high school in San Francisco, the seniors are stressed out. As they prepare for the emotionally draining college application process, students are keenly aware of the intense competition for the few open spots in their dream colleges. At Lowell—where cool kids are nerds, nearly everyone has an amazing talent, and most of the student body is Asian American—things that usually make a person stand out can feel commonplace. With humor and heart, director Debbie Lum captures the reality of the American college application process and the intersection of class, race and educational opportunity as young adults navigate a quintessential rite of passage.


Debbie Lum is a San Francisco-based director whose films give voice to the Asian American experience and other unsung stories. Try Harder!, her most recent documentary, premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews, opens in movie theaters in the US and will broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens, alongside a campaign to promote student mental health and AAPI stories. Her previous documentary, Seeking Asian Female, premiered at SXSW, was a “fan favorite” on PBS’ Independent Lens and was featured on This American Life. Lum’s editing credits include A.K.A. Don Bonus (POV) and Kelly Loves Tony (POV).