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American Teen 2008
Description: A documentary on seniors at a high school in a tiny Indiana city and their different cliques.
Released: 15 Aug 2008 Director: Nanette Burstein Writers: Nanette Burstein Actors: Jake Tusing, Megan Krizmanich, Colin Clemens, Mitch Reinholt Genres: Documentary
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American Teen Reviews:

I everytime just assume, as I'm dragging my tired ass out of bed, into the shower, out the door, into the subway and up the 22 flights of stairs to my small box my boss calls a cubicle that any teenager I pass has no clue about anything at all. I know I'm selling them short but I everytime see them just standing there, talking about nothing at all and making sure everyone around them can hear what they have to say. They're texting every another and shoving every another and making out obnoxiously up vs me on the bus. They annoy me but this is primarily because I want I had it as simple as they do. The irony is that they do have it so simple but they think they're going through the hardest part of their lives, that once they receive out of high school, everything will work out in their favour. There's a reason folks are everytime urging young folks not to grow up too soon, y'know.I expected terror. I expected anxiety. I didn't expect these things from the children in Nanette Burstein's documentary, American TEEN, but rather from myself while having to sit through an in-depth exploration of what it means to be a teenager in middle America these days. I got neither. Instead, I felt sympathy, connection and nostalgia. The promotional material for this Sundance champion for Greatest Direction in a Documentary suggests that the five teenagers who create up the main topics follow in the stereotypical footsteps of THE BREAKFAST CLUB. There's Hannah, the rebel (who is really more of an artist than a rebel), Colin, the jock (who defies all preconceived notions of what it means to be a jock), Megan, the princess (who delights in drama and the suffering of others), Jake, the geek (who naturally plays video minigames and is in the school band) and Mitch, the heartthrob (who barely leaves an impression on the viewer like the others). The reality is that American TEEN is now a much more tender and understanding exploration of the insecurities that lie behind the images. All five of these children turned into characters grow more into themselves before our eyes.Burstein followed these five children and a nice number of their mates for the whole 2006 scholastic year at Warsaw Community High School. They had troubles with their parents, with their friends, with where they would go to college and with what the prom theme would be, to name but a several of the everyday dramas in their lives. As one would expect from a teenager, they trust the globe revolves around them and that their issues are monumental in comparison with anyone else's. What struck me most though is that their issues are not really that various than my issues or those of my friends. Actually I haven't been a teenager for many a year but I still struggle with finding a partner, with finding myself. I still wonder where my life will lead, where I fit in. With responsibilities like bills, rent, a job, staying fit and keeping up with Jones', I don't have time to allow the drama consume me. These five and the millions of others just like them define themselves by their dramas as they don't know the fragility of life yet. Still, their subtle self-questioning, their longing to belong and their hope for their futures gives me a entire another type of hope for the future of humanity.American TEEN is an enjoyable, refreshing documentary that will inevitably enjoy differently to all who see it, as everyone had a various adolescent experience. Some have moved on while others still hear the echoes of torment or thrill in their minds. I know I was just as lost as they were at their age but I'm cute sure I wasn't as loud or vindictive - and, yes, I am aware of how simply making this statement ages me more than is necessary. Thanks to Burstein's finely balanced exposition though, when I see a bunch of children loitering outside my local corner store, I won't focus solely on the loudness with which they ponder which Jonas brother is the hottest but rather remember the confusion that lives inside them and still lives somewhere within me.


I read a several of these posts, and think I might have a various perspective. I live in Washington, D.C., and have never been to Indiana outside of a visit to Bloomington as a child. I went to a public high school in upstate Fresh York, near Syracuse, in the 70's. My mate and I went to the film to see if and how high school and high school students have changed since we were in school. We were not interested in "Warsaw High" as a institution, nor in learning about Warsaw as a community. And after we left, we talked about the film and never discussed "Warsaw as a community". We talked about the individual kids. It may support those of you who think the audience is going to draw negative opinions about your community to know that most of the audience doesn't think this was a study of your community - I saw it as a snapshot of a several high school children from an American town. As I watched, I did wonder about how "typical" high school interactions should be filmed with folks wired for sound and with cameras in their face, etc. I knew some of it had to be staged or severely affected by the presence of the camera. The center of the film, for me, was the pressures on, and insecurities of, the kids. I found the individual interviews to be probably the most honest and reliable part of the movie. Jake, Hanna, and the others told some cute revealing and insightful (and embarrassing) things about themselves; sometimes funny, sometimes touching. And at my age, I know these are kids, as I was once a kid, who will grow up and out of this period of their lives. So I don't see the children as stuck where they were. Again, it's a snap shot. Children wish to please their Dads by getting in to the right school or getting a scholarship; children wish a boyfriend or a girlfriend; there are cliques; there are jealousies and power trips. Yep, it's high school. That's all I saw. I liked the movie. Sorry if the movie team was rude. But Warsaw, chill out. I have no more or less an opinion of a city I never heard of, and whose name I will forget tomorrow, than before. To a ticket buyer like me, it wasn't really about you; it was touching on the universal American high school experience. Half true, half false; true and also TV and film generated. The children all got off to school and are growing up. We should, too. It's all gonna be OK.


In the documentary "American Teen," which had its Regional Premiere here at the 2008 SXSW Movie Festival on the heels of an auspicious Sundance debut, filmmaker Nanette Burstein chronicles a year in the life of a group of high school students from Warsaw, Indiana.On the face of it, it seems like we've seen this before -- the famous girl, All-American jock, shy pimply geek, and wild kid -- growing up and dealing with the overwrought, overblown, magnified time of life that is adolescence in rural America. But this is 2008, and problems that were never raised in the past, or were overlooked -- mental health, self-acceptance, peer pressure and the need to fit in -- take on a new, frightening reality in this day of Columbines and nooses and hatred taken to unheard of levels. The consequences of ignoring what our teens are telling are more frightening than ever before.Yet Burstein's topics are a refreshing dose of a reality we don't see on tv -- yes, these children are troubled and in need of support, but they also demonstrate an impressive capacity to heal themselves. They are smart, streetwise, and comfortable in their own skin. They are smart, funny, and adorable. They have more to teach us about the importance of being able to laugh at ourselves than we may be willing to admit.Ultimately, they grow on us because we've all been there, if not one then a combination. There are more awww moments than one can count and, in the end, we wish to stay there in Warsaw, Indiana.



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