Review of American Teen

Review of American Teen directed by Nanette Burstein
Rating *****

This is a great documentary. Just about everyone can find something or someone who they can identify with. I haven't been to high school in a few years, okay a few decades, but some things never change. And what's true in high school is also true out in the real world. The same personality traits developed in high school can be found in any business environment.

An early concern I had going into the film was that it was going to have a Big Brother-like reality show feel. After all, how can anyone act natural knowing that your every move is being monitored by a camera and sound crew? But this film is far above any reality show. It really is a voyeuristic experience. The kids in the film seem to be oblivious to the camera.

If there are any lessons to be learned from this film, it's that people can change. I know from my own experience that things changed for me once I left high school. Going to college gave me a fresh start.

While the kids were the focus of the film, there were other stories to follow. The story of Erica and how her innocent attempt to get attention by sending a topless photo of herself to her boyfriend resulted in cruel attacks by her fellow students. Her photo had spread throughout the school at lightening speed thanks to the Internet and the easily transferable jpg file. I felt sorry for her because she was a beautiful girl who had to endure a lot of humiliation. Then there were the stories of the less than supportive parents. Like Colin's dad whose pressure on his son to get a basketball scholarship almost backfired.

Of all the seven kids that were followed during their final year of high school, I most identified with Hannah. She is a creative type like me and an independent sole. I just know that she is going to accomplish her goals. When she set off for San Francisco with only a dream and not much more, I cried along with her.

Life is not always fair. All of the kids in the film experience failure of one sort or another and they all manage to rebound. You just know that there will be a follow-up film ten years down the road to see how everyone is doing.

The DVD had a few extras but was lacking an audio commentary, which I would have liked to have heard. You can watch some trailers at

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