American Teen: Close Up On 17
In time for back-to-school, American Teen is a documentary that follows the lives of five teenagers in one small town in Indiana through their senior year in a high school. Filmed daily for 10 months by filmmaker Nanette Burstein, it gives us a fly-on-the-wall view of their insecurities, their jealousies, their cliques, first loves, heartbreaks, and their striving to make decisions about the future. Her goal was a “fresh honest look at teens in the 21st century,” says Ms. Burstein. “Like most teens, I struggled through my own high schools years and wanted to make a film about the very real and intense pressures about being 17,” she adds.
Fashions and technology change, but the kids and their dilemmas will not be new to you: They're trying to forge their own identities while being pushed to fit in with their peers and their families. There’s Hannah Bailey, beautiful and smart but a misfit. She is a liberal, living in a Christian conservative town and hoping to move to California. Colin Clemens is the star of the schools basketball team—and in Indiana basketball is everything. He must not only please his strict father but also get a college scholarship. Megan Krizmanich, the student counsel president and daughter of a prominent surgeon, frets about her acceptance to Notre Dame. She’s the mean girl of the group. Jake Tusing, the acne-scared school nerd, is touching and funny one-on-one, but painfully shy in a group. Mitch Reinholt, charming and attractive, is a Varsity player who puts aside his social status to pal around with Hannah. He tries to maintain his status quo while finding a new side of himself.
One standout moment captures the Hannah’s devastation after breaking up with her boy friend. “I'll never go to school again,” she wails, sobbing on a friend’s shoulder. There also is an intense scene between Mitch and his dad about his college scholarship. Animations add emphasis to what it means to be a teen today. Ms. Burstein documentary does a good job of capturing real teens that are often absent in teen fictional films.#