One Take

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
One Take Movie Poster Image
Girls compete to make pop group in tedious docu.
  • G
  • 2020
  • 85 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

You must cater to your fans to be popular. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thai girls hoping to do well in BNK48 are forced to seem flirtier and more coquettish than they naturally are, and that makes some of them feel like they're betraying themselves.

Violence
Sex

Girls are trained to seem coquettish, although nothing obvious or graphic appears in their acts.

Language
Consumerism

This feels like an advertisement for BNK48 and its merchandise.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that One Take is a documentary about the Thai musical girl pop group BNK48 that pits members against each other in their quests to earn spots in highly promoted songs and videos. Girls reveal to the camera self doubt and worries in the lead-up to the group's first "Sixth Single Senbatsu General Election," in which thousands of fans can pay to vote for favorites. Many girls cry as they express fears of inadequacy. The group is part of an Asian musical business empire that in many ways seems exploitive, although in a subtle way, holding girls from teens to mid-20s to strict six-year contracts that impose behavior restrictions and control their use of social media. Little of this backstory is revealed in the documentary, but parents may want to be aware.    

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What's the story?

In ONE TAKE, young Thai women (teens to mid-20s) strive to become "idols" as they maneuver for position within the popular BNK48 (Bangkok 48) musical group. The members gather for theater games, training, and rehearsals in the run-up to what's billed as the "first Sixth Single Senbatsu General Election." This is reportedly a recent phenomenon, a PR and marketing event created by an Asian musical empire worth millions of dollars, if not more. The group was originally spawned as a sister group to Japan's financially successful girl group AKB48. The movie doesn't mention any of this, so Americans may be mystified by everything about this phenomenon. Although it's not explained, "first generation" members were the first group of 30 girls selected and trained to sing and dance on stage and in videos. Their success led to selection of a "second generation," and many of those girls confess to the camera feeling like second-class, inferior members who are constantly striving for the fan popularity that will allow them to be featured on CDs and performances, which will, in turn, boost their personal popularity more. A convention where BNK48 CDs and merchandise are sold to fans also features so-called "handshake events" that allow contact between group members and their adoring public for a fee. Snippets of performances are shown, but mostly the film focuses on interviews with tearful girls about their anxieties and uncertainties about where they stand in the group. One laments, "I'm not idol material." The pressure is constant, which explains all the tears.

Is it any good?

Fans of the Thai girl group BNK48 will probably welcome One Take, this long, tedious insider look at the hierarchy within the singing, dancing, costumed world of these young women. Others may find it disturbing. All will wonder why a filmmaker would waste so much time interviewing girls who all have exactly the same cliched, uninformative things to say: competition is difficult, and you can only do your best. "I didn't do a good enough job," laments one. "I blame myself," says another. "To be an idol, you have to be determined." "People should always set a high bar for themselves."

This movie describes a full-blown BNK48 culture with customs and habits and taboos, and many will wonder how it all works throughout a documentary that does little to explain. What is the "first 6th Single Senbatsu General Election," for example? How can something be both first and 6th? What does "Senbatsu" mean? What is an "undergirl"? Viewers with stamina may stay with this film long enough to figure out the answers on their own, but there is no actual payoff for that patience. It takes a full hour for the film to hint that winning the election doesn't reflect talent, because fans can vote as many times as they like as long as they pay per vote. In this male-run empire, young, pretty girls are commodities pressed to promote personas foreign to them. "I am actually just a bubbly kid, not the sexy grown woman they think I am," one explains." Although they all voluntarily participate in what one calls a "brutal" system, perhaps they see it as a way out of poverty, but that's not discussed here. This seems like recruiting propaganda designed to entice innocent girls. An informative documentary could be made about BNK48, but this is not it.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how unhappy many of the group's members seem to be in One Take. What are some reasons they give?

  • The girls are selected for their appearance and how they answer questions. How do you think this selection process affects the ability of group members to sing and dance well?

  • The lucrative pop music industry has different money-making models in different countries. How do you think the model shown here, featuring nearly interchangeable girls competing against each other for fan popularity, compares to the way pop stars emerge in the U.S.?

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