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Matt Damon, at documentary screening, raps the privatization of education

Matt Damon (left) and his mother Nancy Carlsson-Paige (right) are pictured as they meet the press in the green room before the screening of the movie "Backpack Full of Cash" at the Wheelock Family Theatre on the campus of Wheelock College.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

After promoting his upcoming films “Suburbicon” and “Downsizing” at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, Matt Damon was in Boston Wednesday to highlight another project, an issue he said has been “at the forefront of our family and dinner table conversations my entire life.”

Damon, a Cambridge native, narrated Sarah Mondale’s film “Backpack Full of Cash,” a 2016 documentary about the movement to privatize public education. On Wednesday night, Damon joined Mondale, “Backpack” coproducer Vera Aronow, and his mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an activist for early childhood education, for a screening and discussion of the film.

In an interview before the event, Damon said that schools should not be run like businesses.


“Teachers have been increasingly beat up and devalued for the last two decades, and ultimately we’re all going to pay for that as a society,” said Damon, who graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

The free event, held at Wheelock College, drew a capacity crowd of teachers, activists, and students.

The 90-minute documentary, produced by Stone Lantern Films and Turnstone Productions, argues that the country needs a public school system that works for all students. Mondale, the film’s director and coproducer, was a New York public school teacher.

The event was designed to raise awareness about issues discussed in the film, including funding cuts for music and art classes.

“To see these kids not have that kind of access — how many of these kids in these schools, how many artists have we lost? How many learners have just given up because they feel like this is not for them?”

Carlsson-Paige said she hopes the documentary builds on “a momentum that I think is already going on around the country to build awareness about the necessity of saving public education.”

She was part of the opposition to last year’s unsuccessful effort to expand charter schools in Massachusetts. Charter schools are publicly funded but run independently, a freedom supporters say fosters innovation and accountability.


Mondale, whose mother and grandmother were also teachers, said that the need for education reform has become increasingly urgent as the belief that public schools are broken has taken hold.

Kaitlyn Locke can be reached at kaitlyn.locke@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ke_locke.