Hot Docs: Teenage – Matt Wolf

hotdocsUsing Jon Savage’s Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture as a launching point, Wolf’s film, which screened at the Lightbox yesterday, serves as a perfect companion piece to Savage’s work.

Through the use of varied voice overs from the UK, the U.S. and Germany, the film charts the growth of a new creation, that of adolescence at the turn of the 20th century. Before that time, children joined the workforce at an insanely young age, and worked 6 day weeks like the rest of society.

With war on the horizon and the creation of labor laws, there was now a step between childhood and adulthood, an age where the things of childhood could be put away, but the things of adulthood were still beyond their reach.

The film follows the rebellious nature of these newly created youth of the UK, labeled hooligans, occasionally violent, and always seeking release.

Teenage_2In Germany there are divisions, those in service to the state and those who are delighted by the things they are hearing of from America, clothes styles and music.

In America, the explosion of youth becomes the biggest influence on the nation, growing from the introduction of the Scouts program imported from the UK, which was created to prime them for soldiery, to disaffected youth, to the generation with the most buying power.

The film makes great use of source material, charting the rise of the teenager from their involvement in state-sponsored youth programs to the zoot suit riots, from parties to volunteer programs.

It examines the arising culture of the teenager from its inception to the end of World War II which saw the introduction of the Teenage Bill of Rights in 1945.

I found the film to be entertaining, but lacking the excitement and verve of what it is to be a teenager. There were laughs to be had, as stilted scenes from culled material was incorporated into the film, but for all of that, it didn’t truly engage me.

Like a good documentary, and it is, it kept an objective eye on the subject matter, simply illustrating the history of the subject matter instead of making one feel a part of it.

The material put together in the film, and some of the pictures used are amazing, seeing young faces looking out at us from across the decades, faces that were hard at work at a young age, faces that are filled with hope for their own future, faces that are trying to find their place in this world.

An interesting look at the creation of youth.


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