Films: Teenage

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USA, 2013, 80 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Historical/Period
Program: Documentary
Language: English

Producer: Ben Howe, Kyle Martin
Editor: Joe Beshenkovsky
Screenwriter: Jon Savage, Matt Wolf
Cinematographer: Nick Bentgen
Principal Cast: Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Alden Ehrenreich, Jessie Usher, Malik Peters

It seems that everywhere in our society we celebrate the cult of youth. People spend millions to regain youthful skin and bodies; we undergo surgeries to fight the clock. We yearn for the frivolity of yesteryear. Yet why are the adolescent feeling so disenfranchised? Is it because of the irony that on the surface we value the up-and-coming generation when in reality we continually stack the cards against them?

Inspired by Jon Savage’s book Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture 1875-1945, director /writer Matt Wolf (named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine) pieces together a moving memoir voiced by iconic teens of their respective eras. This doc is a compelling amalgamation of archival footage and dramatic portraits highlighting flappers, sub-debs, Boy Scouts, swing kids, and other subcultural movements, resulting in a hazy, dreamlike collective memory. This thread of youth defining itself has been woven into our societal fabric for over a hundred years, yet we seemingly suffer from adult amnesia decade after decade, leaving the youth to fend for themselves.

A standout moment defining the theme of Wolf’s work is a shot of FDR promising a better future for Depression-era American adolescents, immediately followed by a shot of Hitler guaranteeing Nazi youth a better tomorrow. Across the globe, the course of history in the 20th century has been a grand design for governments to use the young for their own agendas, from child labor to soldiers of war to good little capitalists.

Ultimately, the recognition of the definition of “teenager” coincided with the atomic age, both ushering in the postmodern era.

In cooperation with East High School

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