Teen Dreams

Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 22, l995–A trio of disparate youngsters tell their candid stories in Teen Dreams, a docu using an unconventional methodology based the subjects recording their personal lives. Despite novel strategy, docu suffers from a curious lack of critical perspective that would have contextualized and illuminated with greater depth the subjective chronicles. Still, as an maneuver that already yielded some positive effects, Teen Dreams should air on TV and also be shown in inner-city schools.

Teenagers from Harlem, Hollywood, and Philadelphia, were given Hi-18 video cameras and some training from professional mentors. Asked to record their daily lives for one year, they then submitted their footage to co-producer and editor Kinoy, who shaped and interweaved their personal stories into a collective tapestry meant to comment on America's disenfranchised youth.

African-American Frank Cardon grew up in violent North Philadelphia, where early on in his childhood he became embittered and absorbed with hate. Cardon recalls a fateful night, in which his buddy gunned down another youngster, served as turning point in his life. Products of white working class, Adwana and younger sister Gloria, ran away from an abusive family, landing in L.A., where they worked on Hollywood Blvd. and experienced harsh survive.

Story of third subject, Harlem's Edwin La Traun Parker, is the most interesting, as he records his search for his father who left the family when he was 8 and now lives in South Carolina. When first met, Parker is a senior in his sixth school in four years. Desperate to avoid the streets–and jail–Parker struggles but he graduates and goes to college. Discovery of roots–and a large family–and encounter with dad hold surprise, defying his initial expectations.

Teen Dreams emphasizes the importance of a nurturing nuclear family and rich communal life in youngsters' existence. Surprisingly, docu doesn't really transcend audience's preconceptions beyond what's already known about urban youth from magazine and TV coverage.

Docu is marred by some serious methodological problems as viewers aren't told what specific guidelines were given to the three amateur “anthropologists,” and what selectivity they exercised in relating the more painful aspects of their tales. There's also no info about the cutting/editorializing done by docu's directors as they obviously received a more extensive footage than the one finally used.

Still, the fact that two of the kids have found new focus in their lives, as a result of making the film, raises hopeful expectations of how this visual exercise could be used for rehab and other educational purposes.