Seventeen presented by BOMB Magazine
Directed by Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines
A ﬁlm about coming of age in the working class. We decided to follow a group of teenagers — girls and boys, white and black — whose lives intertwine during their last year in high school. By ﬁlming for more than a year, and by living where we were ﬁlming, we encountered a range of experience. A white girl has a cross burned in her yard because she has a black boyfriend. A pal of hers from the neighborhood loses his best friend, who is killed in a car accident. Another classmate fathers an illegitimate baby.
From the beginning we mixed easily with the kids. We each use only a one-person rig we designed — a camera/tape recorder combination that allows the ﬁlmmaker to act intuitively and feel untied — no sound person, lights, crew, or crates of paraphernalia. It matters, too, that one of us is male, the other female: we could ﬁlm those moments of high girlishness and boyishness that occur only out of earshot of the opposite sex.
The result is a free-ﬂowing intimacy with the teenagers’ world. Kids smoke dope, get drunk, sass their teachers, disobey the taboo against race-mixing, try to break away from their mothers and fathers. It’s clear that they, on occasion, fuck and ﬁght.
But the ﬁlm is not scandalous. It got that reputation, sight-unseen by most citizens, when the authorities banned it from television, and boughten mouths told lies about it, over and over till invention became objective record, elevated to that pinnacle, and secured, by the typing sheep. Nothing new there — that the powerful have power. We refused to change our ﬁlm.
We respected the kids’ complexity, celebrated their liveliness, despaired of their future. And we loved them dearly. But it was impossible to oblige America’s notion that to be worthy ﬁlm subjects, the working class must be saintlike, and to be embraceable, cinema-verité (or any art) should become a broken version of what the makers made.
–Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreineshttp://www.uniondocs.org/2014-06-19-seventeen/