American Teen, a new documentary that follows five teenagers over a single school year, opened in limited release in late July, and is making its way to other theaters across the country. Director Nanette Burstein’s film was produced during the 2005-2006 school year, and follows five teenagers at Warsaw Community High School in Indiana.
Critics’ reactions to the film are mixed, and it doesn’t have universal acclaim, with some criticizing it for feeling staged or formulaic or both. When the film came out in limited release, the Los Angeles Times reported that although it “sparked a bidding war after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January” it “has been criticized as too glossy and too willfully mainstream,” while “[s]ome question its authenticity.”
As to the criticism, Burstein told the paper that she “was really surprised actually and have been upset by it. There’s accusations that it’s staged and scripted and that I went after the stereotypes, and it’s just not true. I think it’s unusual to have a very narrative documentary, so people aren’t used to it. I think people have a hard time believing teenagers are willing to be that intimate on camera. So sometimes I feel I’m being criticized for what the film’s achievements are.”
Here’s the film’s trailer: