For a year, KARE 11 reporter Lindsey Seavert and photographer Ben Garvin followed a north Minneapolis school that has struggled to meet state standards.

Their documentary, "Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary School," will be shown next week as part of the upcoming Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The film explores the school's quest to lift itself off the state's list of failing schools and highlights the stories of several students, particularly Sophia, a fifth-grader who learns she's up for adoption amid her journey to succeed academically. But the film's protagonist is the school's principal, Mauri Friestleben.

Friestleben, who grew up a few blocks from Lucy Laney, has been principal for seven years but worked at the school for a decade. She has devoted herself to retaining teachers and boosting student achievement at Lucy Laney, where about 80 percent of the students test a grade level or more below their current grade. About 82 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and 12 percent of the student population are homeless or have unstable housing.

The first two screenings of the film sold out; two more have been added, on April 18 and 25.

Friestleben said she hopes the film will help change the public education system.

"We as the Lucy Laney community had the opportunity to show it and share it," Friestleben said. "There will be plenty of educators locally and nationally … [who] can identify with the multiple aspects of the story."

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203