'American' Drama: Real teen life on the big screen
Video, Words: Eming Piansay //Video: Ann Bassette and Eming Piansay
YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Aug 05, 2008
Editor's Note: YO! sat down with Nanette Burstein, the director of the new documentary film American Teen that followed the lives of four teens in the only high school in Warsaw, Indiana. The film documents the good, the breakups and the Internet bullying that follows. Eming Piansay is a content producer and Ann Bassette is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.
High school is the time in our young lives where hormones control just about everything. We get the (sometimes) unwanted crash course in love and its pit falls; maneuver awkwardly the through social gauntlet of our peers, ultimately discovering our strengths and weaknesses.
This description screams ‘after school TV special’ where everyone learns a lesson in the last five minutes, but the new movie American Teen, directed by Nanette Burstein, tackles the reality of what high school is through the eyes of five young people at Warsaw Community High School in Warsaw, Indiana.
The initial poster for the movie portrayed the five students in the same style of the Breakfast club: The jock, the heartthrob, the rebel, the princess, and the geek. For a lot of people I think it is easy to see pieces of your high school self in each of the characters – negative and positive.
There were a lot of cringe worthy moments that made high school memories flood back into my brain. Like when you’re kind of the socially awkward type person going on an even more socially awkward date. Or when someone spreads a vicious rumor about you, but in this day and age rumors are spread by way of text message and e-mail – resulting in an even more scarring, painful experience – way more advanced than what the bullies in my high school were capable of doing.
The movie could have easily fallen into a very ho-hum, MTV True Life style. But throughout the movie Burstein caught those pure, raw moments that made high school so memorable – for better or worse, like when your significant other breaks up with you and your left crying on the hood of a car; or when the new, beautiful girl at school agrees to go out on a date with ‘the geek’.My favorite of the five is Hannah. She’s the quirky rebel who knows she doesn’t fit into the status quo of Warsaw Indiana. I pretty much envied her high energy and don’t-care- what-people think attitude through most of the movie. Mainly because I was the exact opposite, I was quiet, reserved and I always cared what people thought of me, always. The only thing that bothered me about the movie was how non-diverse the cast was. To get a better picture of what life was in high school it would have made more sense to go to different areas of the United States and film teens who come from all walks of life. America is not Warsaw Indiana. America is Indiana, New York, Texas, California, Washington, Colorado, Tennessee and all the other fifty states. My high school looked nothing like Warsaw Community High School, but it was interesting to get a glimpse of what high school life is like for young people living in that area of the United States.
I watched the movie with a good friend of mine who never went to public high school. I envied the fact that he didn’t get the rush of painful memories that watching the movie brought on me. People always say that high school is a time that you’ll always remember and be thankful that you experienced it. That may be true, but I wouldn’t want a movie made about me during high school that will live on, and on and on forever. Experiencing it the first time was bad enough, reliving it on DVD is something completely different.