About this film

Lowell High School is the top-ranked public high school in San Francisco – and 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 schools.

At Lowell — where cool kids are nerds, nearly everyone has an amazing talent, and the majority of the student body is Asian American — the things that usually make a person stand out can feel not good enough, even commonplace. So what does it take for each student to stand out in an admissions process that systemically fails to see their individuality? And at what cost? “Try Harder!” takes us to the alarming reality of the American college application process and the intersection of class, race and educational opportunity as experienced by five high school students living through it.

With humor and heart, director Debbie Lum captures the hopes, dreams and anxieties of the most diverse American generation ever as they navigate a quintessential rite of passage and make it their own.

The AAPI series was curated by Razi Jafri, a Detroit-based documentary filmmaker.


2 p.m. Sat., April 13, Detroit Historical Museum

Available virtually


Debbie Lum

Debbie Lum,
Nico Opper,
Lou Nakasako


Lou Nakasako
and Kathy Huang

Andrew Gersh,
Amy Ferraris

Diana Salier

Executive producer:

Running time:
1 hour, 25 minutes

Country of origin:


Film website

Festival history:
Sundance Film Festival, AFI Docs, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, DOC NYC, CAAMFest, many more

Award history:
San Diego Asian Film Festival, Audience Award. DocEdge New Zealand, Best Family Film. Calgary International Film Festival, Jury Prize for Raising Awareness