If You Build It Movie Poster Image

If You Build It



Inspiring docu shows young people capable of great things.
  • Review Date: January 12, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 85 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kids can do a whole lot more than they think, and definitely a whole lot more than most adults are willing to let them do. In this documentary, a class of 10 high school juniors in rural North Carolina, design and build a new farmers market for their town. It's a big project, and the manage to pull it off. In the process, they discover their own capabilities.

Positive role models

Emily and Matt, the two educators at the center of this documentary, make huge sacrifices to help the kids in their class. The focus of the task is to teach the students how to design and build things, but the real point is to help the young people learn that they have the power, and the abilities, to plan and execute real things.


Some mild bickering.

Not applicable

"Dangit" and "piss off" are about the roughest epithets heard here.


Some consumer brands make brief appearences, including Pabst Blue Ribbon and Subway sandwiches.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few scenes show adults drinking beer while they relax and one person mentions once his desire to "have a few beers" at the end of the day.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that If You Build It is an inspiring documentary that shows just what can happen if you empower young people. Teen viewers will see admirable role models in the educators who persevere against challenging odds to bring a special program to high school kids. They will also see teens like themselves accomplish a lot when given the opportunity. There are a few scenes that show the adults drinking beer, but there's no swearing, smoking, drugs, violence or sex. This a film that almost any teen would benefit from seeing.

What's the story?

In the fall of 2010, 10 high students in Bertie County, North Carolina, enrolled in a unique class -- an updated version of shop class that eventually has them designing and building an actual structure, a new farmers market for their rural community. The brainchild of Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller, who applied their backgrounds in design and architecture to education, the Project H program is designed to empower young people; first, by teaching them the skills to create something, and then letting them actually do it. IF YOU BUILD IT is an inspiring documentary directed by Patrick Creadon, who also worked on the acclaimed behind-the-scenes look at crossword puzzles, Wordplay, and shows that teens have the ability and the talent to make a difference, if adults will let them.

Is it any good?


If You Build It is neither flashy nor action-packed, but its subject matter -- how to inspire kids in a town that the economy seemingly forgot -- is enormously appealing. Pilloton and Miller are fascinating subjects, altruistic and optimistic and desperate to make a change, and as such, they're interesting to watch.

When monkey wrenches are thrown their way, however, we don't always get a clear picture as to why they persist. Their plan is heartily endorsed by the superintendant of schools, but he's ousted early in the film and it's not clear why. Several local residents appear onscreen to laud Project H, but nobody ever explains why the school board is so dubious about it. No matter, there's plenty of inspiring stuff going on to interest viewers, including students who, through the class, identify a much-needed life direction. It's uplifting to watch the teens as they slowly begin to realize that not only are they capable of great things, they are actually going to create something wonderful.


Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the challenges Emily and Matt face while trying to being their program to the school. How do they manage to make it happen anyway? What can you learn from their example?

  • Why do you think the filmmakers chose to document this story? What do you think they hoped to achieve?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 10, 2014
DVD release date:June 23, 2015
Director:Patrick Creadon
Studio:Long Shot Factory
Topics:High school
Character strengths:Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
Run time:85 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of If You Build It was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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