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What 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.
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What's the story?
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. 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.
Is it any good?
This documentary 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 superintendent 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 in If You Build It as they slowly begin to realize that not only are they capable of great things, they are actually going to create something wonderful.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the challenges Emily and Matt face while trying to bring their program to the school in If You Build It. 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?
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