Destiny Concealed: The Eagle Academy Public Charter School Story is a powerful documentary film that honors the founders of Eagle Academy Public Charter School and marks its 20th anniversary. Eagle’s inaugural campus, the first public charter school for PK3-K in the District, opened in the “Blue Castle” at the corner of 8th and M streets SE in 2003 with 114 students. After rapid expansion, a second location opened its doors a few blocks away on New Jersey Avenue Southeast in 2010. Today, Eagle operates two state-of-the-art campuses in the Congress Heights and Capitol Riverfront neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., bettering the lives of hundreds of children across the city.
When the Covid 19 pandemic shut the world down in early 2020, Karen Alston—the Chief Marketing Officer for Eagle Academy Public Charter School—had an idea. Cassandra Pinkney, the co-founder of Eagle Academy, had passed away four years before, and Alston wanted to honor her contribution to early childhood education in DC’s Southeast wards. She reached out to her friend Cheryl Montalvo, an experienced film director, to see if she would be interested in telling the story of Cassandra Pinkney and Dr. Joe Smith, an advocate with expertise in public charter schools, and how they came together to create the school.
And so Destiny Concealed: The Eagle Academy Public Charter School Story documentary, was born. Montalvo’s background is in news gathering. Together with a powerful team, she helps to tell nuanced and diverse human-interest stories, creating content for high profile networks and agencies such as CNN and HuffPost. Since 2023 marked the 20 year anniversary of the opening of the first Eagle Academy, the time was right for a commemoration of Pinkney and Smith’s efforts to shatter the neglect by city services in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.
Montalvo and her crew started filming in early 2020. They spent over 16 months conducting 38 interviews with parents, staff and alumni of Eagle Academy, community members, Pinkney’s family, and the many whose lives had been changed by a woman that many viewed as a modern-day biblical matriarch. Pinkney, as we learn through the documentary, was someone who – through the struggles she faced with her own son as a young mother in an underserved community – was inspired to help build intellectual generational wealth for hundreds of families.
Stylistically, Montalvo’s Destiny Concealed is a quietly powerful piece of documentary filmmaking. There is no mediator. No superfluous technical detail interferes with the inherently powerful subject matter. “What’s unique about this documentary is that I used one cameraman. One Director of Photography.” Montalvo says. “Having just one person and myself created a level of comfort not only in the communities but also with those I was able to sit down with and interview.” The result of this intentional and sensitive approach is a piece of film making that gives priority to the voices of the community.