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AMERICAN TEEN

Director: NANETTE BURNSTEIN

U.S.A. • 2008 • COLOUR • DOLBY STEREO • DIGITAL • 100 MIN


THIS RAW AND UNFLINCHING PORTRAIT OF A NUMBER OF PROTOTYPICAL SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLDS IN WARSAW, INDIANA, OFFERS CONSIDERABLY MORE THAN THE STEREOTYPES OF ADOLESCENT ANGST AND INSTEAD SUBTLY CAPTURES THE COMPLEXITIES AND VULNERABILITIES OF TEENAGERS STRUGGLING TO MAKE THE LEAP INTO ADULTHOOD.
A major hit at Sundance 2008, Nanette Burnstein’s film is a captivating documentary with a feature film aesthetic and a superb cast. It focuses on four teenagers: Hannah, who dearly wishes to escape her humdrum existence and dreams of becoming a film director; Jake, who’s beset with chronic acne and has an unfortunate knack for making inappropriate comments to the opposite sex; Megan, the daring and self-styled ruler of the ‘in’ crowd; and Colin, the school’s sports star, who’s striving to achieve the grades that will ensure his college place.
The narrative pivots on Hannah’s story as she revels in her role as a misfit who’s far removed from the initially vacuous social scene headed by Megan, whom Hannah dismisses as ‘the biggest bitch in school’. The overlapping stories unfold against the backdrop of a predominantly white and rural small town, with the lack of any social or political context lending an almost timeless quality to the proceedings. Using a combination of interviews, cinema verite footage and stylish animation sequences, Burnstein interweaves the teenagers’ stories with considerable panache, ensuring that the contrast between their high school identities and often tumultuous home lives becomes all too apparent. Culminating with a snapshot of high school hormones and histrionics, American Teen makes no concessions to flattering or glamorising its subjects. — Colm McAuliffe.

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