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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Seed is a 2017 documentary centered on three of the several teams competing to win seed money for their startups during AngelHack's Silicon Valley Week in San Francisco. "F--k" is used several times, and there's occasional use of profanity like "s--t" and "ass." The three teams are of different ages and backgrounds, but are all shown working hard and making tremendous sacrifices to get their startups off the ground. While this is certainly a stylized documentary that employs the reality television technique of taking the faintest whiff of conflict and exaggerating it for all it's worth, what emerges for teens and kids dreaming of bringing their own startups into the world is just how much personal and financial sacrifice is needed to make it happen, the challenges that inevitably erupt, and the effect stress can have on relationships. Best for tech-savvy teens and parents.
What's the story?
SEED is a documentary centered on three teams competing in a "hackathon" called AngelHack's Silicon Valley Week. In this competition, teams with startups present their ideas to tough-but-fair Silicon Valley executives. The winner, chosen by these executives, will receive seed money to help get their idea off the ground. Three teens from Palo Alto, California want to revolutionize the way clothing is purchased. A Palestinian man who works as an Uber driver and sleeps in his car to save money for his startup -- a way to simplify e-commerce shipping in the Middle East -- is trying to balance the demands of the startup with raising a family. A team of Kenyans are developing an app that could clean a polluted river and save lives in Nairobi. During three intense days, these teams contend with the stresses of delivering the perfect pitch to the executives, making their technology glitch-free, and trying to maintain their friendships in the midst of long hours and tight schedules.
Is it any good?
For all its heightened drama and conflict, this documentary is best enjoyed by the tech savvy. Not that Luddites won't get wrapped up in the external and internal conflicts building up to the climax in which they find out who wins the "hackathon," it's just that Seed resorts to all the tricks in the reality show playbook to make the spectacle of people basically working in front of a computer screen all day and all night visually compelling. Even with the interesting-enough stories and backgrounds of the three teams, the spinny cameras and delay-pedal saturated background music gives one the sense that "reality" is being manipulated to seem more dramatic than it is "irl."
Also, there isn't much context provided at the beginning. The viewer is simply supposed to understand that this is all very important and meaningful to those being filmed. While the story does eventually take shape and what's at stake for the participants is made clear, it takes a while to get there. Even the faintest whiff of conflict is played up to squeeze out as much entertainment value as possible. It's almost as if the filmmakers didn't have enough faith in the diverse and unique stories of their subjects, and it's that apparent lack of faith that prevents this documentary from appealing to a more universal audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about documentaries. How does Seed employ background music, editing, and camera shots to heighten and exaggerate moments of drama and conflict?
What are the ways in which this documentary shows what's at stake for the three teams trying to win the "hackathon?"
What would be the challenges in filming a documentary in which the main people involved are spending long hours sitting in front of a computer and working?
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