Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary



Ticket Prices
General Public:FREE
Film Info
Program:Special Screenings
Women Directors
Culture & Society
Social Justice
Minnesota Made
Release Year:2019
Runtime:89 min
Website:Official Website
Director:Lindsey Seavert
Ben Garvin
Executive Producer:Janeen Vogelaar
Producer:Melody Gilbert
Lindsey Seavert
Ben Garvin
Cinematographer:Ben Garvin
Editor:Ben Garvin
Composer:Charlie McCarron
Cornbread Harris


Free Online Community Screening of LOVE THEM FIRST

MSP Film Society is pleased to partner with KARE 11 and the City of Minneapolis to present a free online community screening of the award-winning film Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary in honor of all the teachers in our state.

Beginning Friday, May 8th at 7pm through midnight on May 10, 2020, the MSP Film Society will present Love Them First for free to all viewers in Minnesota through our Virtual Cinema at

On Saturday, May 9th at 7pm, Love Them First Co-Directors: KARE 11 Reporter Lindsey Seavert and KARE 11 Photojournalist Ben Garvin, and the film’s subjects, Principals Mauri Friestleben and Lisa Pawelak, will join MSP Film Society Programmer Craig Laurence Rice in a live Q&A. Register for the Zoom Live Q&A here to be able to ask a question, or tune into the live stream on MSP Film's Facebook Event page.


Love Them First was the surprise hit of the 2019 Minneapolis St. Paul International Festival (MSPIFF), where it held its World Premiere and quickly sold out all screenings, even as the festival scrambled to add more. Love Them First won both the 2019 MSPIFF Best Minnesota Made Documentary award and the Audience Choice: New American Visions Documentary Feature award before continuing on the festival circuit and winning awards across the country. KARE 11 presented the Broadcast Premiere last fall, and in December 2019, Love Them First was crowned with the most prestigious award in broadcast journalism, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award.

“It was evident even when viewing an early rough cut of the film that Lindsey and Ben had captured something very special at Lucy Laney,” said MSPIFF Programmer Craig Laurence Rice. “While you can never be certain how audiences are going to react to any film we present, it continues to amaze us to witness Principal Mauri Melander Friestleben inspire countless audiences through her most basic message about working with children: just love them first.”

MSP Film Society presents this free community online screening one week in advance of launching MSPIFF39 Redefined, a virtual film festival that will run May 15-23. The traditional Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, which was scheduled for April 2020, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Stay Home Order issued by Governor Walz.


With unprecedented access over the course of a year, Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary follows the determination of a charismatic North Minneapolis school principal, Mauri Melander Friestleben, as she sets out to undo history. Not only does Minnesota have the largest achievement gap between black and white children in the United States, Friestleben faced another seemingly impossible obstacle, with Lucy Laney at the bottom of the state's list of underperforming schools for two decades. Under Friestleben's leadership, standardized test scores from most black students began rising for the first time, but when the school encounters a heartbreaking setback, Friestleben is forced to confront the true measure of student success at Lucy Laney. It's a story of inspiration, heartbreak, perseverance and the power of love.

Director Biography

Bettina Perut, Iván Osnovikoff

Lindsey Seavert is a reporter and Ben Garvin a photojournalist for Minnesota based news station, KARE 11. They have earned an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award for their work in their respective fields.