The documentary "American Teen" illustrates that no matter how drastically the world changes, high school remains steadfastly the same.
Filmmaker Nanette Burstein ("The Kid Stays in the Picture") spent 10 months following five teenagers at Warsaw High School in Warsaw, Ind., which has a population of 12,500: Hannah is a smart, independent spirit who wants to move to California to become a filmmaker; Colin is a champion basketball player who is under extreme pressure by his father to get a college scholarship; Jake is the school's nerd who desperately wants a girlfriend; Megan is the popular girl waiting to hear if she was accepted at Notre Dame; and Mitch is the basketball jock who briefly dates Hannah.
"High school was a really difficult time in my life and a formative time in my life," Burstein says. "It was a subject I wanted to tackle for my own personal reasons."
She chose a Midwestern school because she thought there was more "timelessness" in that part of the country. "I wanted it to be in a town that only had one high school so you couldn't escape from what your social status was, meaning if you were an underdog it was more challenging and if you were popular you might feel more powerful. I wanted it to be economically mixed. I also needed a school that would really cooperate."
For the film, which Paramount Vantage will release July 25, she says she was "looking for universal story lines that I both experienced and had seen in teen fiction films, but seen in a very one-dimensional way."
-- Susan King