Sunday, January 9, 2011

American Teen

Documentary film maker Nanatte Burstein has, in some ways, brought The Breakfast Club to life in her film American Teen. The film, which won the directors award at Sundance a couple years ago, follows five teens from a small Indiana town through their senior year. Burstein visited numerous high schools and interviewed thousands of teens in scouting out her decision for an average American high school on which to focus. She hits the standard archetypes of athlete, prom queen/honors student, misfit, and band geek - and she pretty much lets them tell their story.

Overall, this is a watch-able and reasonably thoughtful film about being a teenager in the twenty-first century. While it is obviously a bit contrived, my experience is that it offered a pretty accurate reflection of what is going on in the average suburban high school in this country. I was acutely aware of the naive lens through which so many teens perceive life and their future. For example, students believe everything will be fine if they can "just get into Notre Dame" or "just get a basketball scholarship" or "just get out of this town and move to California." And, it's poignant at times to see them struggle with the realities of their expectations.

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