Teen’ shows true reality

Filmmaker Nanette Burstein delved into the lives of five high school seniors from Warsaw, Ind. in her documentary, American Teen.

Burstein focused on a Midwestern school, as living in a small town is vastly different from the glamorous lives depicted on popular reality shows and sensational evening dramas.

The clan includes Hannah Bailey, a free spirit ready to break away from the restraints of small-town life to pursue a career in the arts.

Long-time friend and teammate Mitch Reinholdt, also the school heartthrob, has secretly been admiring Bailey for the last three years but has yet to act on his feelings.

Colin Clemens is a star athlete on the basketball team whose future hinges on his ability to play well.

Megan Krismanich, the pack leader, is well-liked because of her upbeat personality and outlandish antics. She will stop at nothing to get a good laugh.

Jake Tusing, a reclusive gamer with few friends and few prospects, desperately wants a girlfriend, but his awkwardness always seems to get in the way.

Anyone who has survived high school, or who is still fighting the battle can identify with these characters and their experiences.

"It applies to anybody. It applies to high school students (because) if you’re going through similar situations maybe it can help. Even though you can’t relate to our title per se, you can relate to our experiences," Clemens said.

The film deals with loss, pressure from parents and peers and a slew of complex social issues.

Clemens, in particular, had to contend with parental pressure in ways the others may not have. His father was constantly encouraging him to up his game so he could catch the attention of college talent scouts and earn a scholarship.

"As much as he pressured me, at the end of the day you could tell he was genuine," Clemens said.

Similarly, Krismanich felt extreme pressure from her family to get into Notre Dame, as her father and several of her siblings had already graduated from the prestigious school.

Krismanich also taunted and teased Reinholdt about his secret crush and showed no mercy when her two best friends decided they wanted to take their relationship to the next level.

Of course, peer pressure and jealousy are ever-present monsters waiting to sink claws into Mr. and Ms. Popularity.

On the whole, the film was uncensored fun. The five stories were uniquely compelling because they were honest and unaffected. Triumphs and pitfalls were the issues of everyday kids.

Kudos to Burstein for her unalloyed portrayal of real teens, real parents and real problems.

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