Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

If You Build It

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Not rated
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:None
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:None
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:February 21, 2014
B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Profanity: None
Nudity/Sex: None
Alcohol/Drugs: None
Violence/Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Movie Release Date: February 21, 2014

An idealistic young couple from big cities moves to a tiny, economically depressed town in North Carolina for a project that will take advantage of what they think is “an untapped resource” — teenagers. Emily Polliton, TED talker and co-author of Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People and Matt Miller, who had just built a home in Detroit to donate to a needy family, got a pioneering school superintendent in Bertie County, North Carolina, to agree to let them create a curriculum with a daunting challenge.  They wanted to revitalize the students and the town through design.  They had a lot of ideas, but they knew that they could never accomplish anything unless they were clear that they were there to support the town.  They knew that the students would be responsible for a big project.  But what that project would be had to be decided by the people who live there.

Advertisement

if you build itDocumentarian Patrick Creadon (“Wordplay,” “I.O.U.S.A”) observed the Studio H project that Emily and Matt brought to North Carolina over 16 months.  The name stands for: Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happiness (echoing 4H’s “head, heart, hands, and health”).  They began with ten bright but bored high school juniors.  One of them says dryly that he hates school just as his father and grandfather did: “It’s a family tradition.”  And in one of the movie’s bleakest moments, we see some of them taking mind-numbing online classes, including, ludicrously, PE. “It’s not that I’m leaving here,” another says.  “There’s just nothing to keep me here.”  This project answers the age-old question: When will I ever need to use calculus?  And, in Emily’s words, it is a counter to the current approach, which has “the raw and unadulterated

Advertisement

None of them have ever made anything before.  None of them have ever been asked to look at what’s around them and think about design before.  Day one, Matt and Emily have them getting their hands dirty — very dirty, making water filtration systems out of mud and cow patties.  For the first time, they are asked to think with a pencil.  “Some of your sketches are ugly, and that’s okay,” Matt says to encourage the kids to stop self-censoring.  “The studio is a mess, which is fantastic,” Emily tells them.   After two preliminary projects, they work with the town to decide on what their big project will be.  It will be something the town will be proud of, something hopeful, something that will help the economy: a farmer’s market.

Advertisement

Design is about solving problems.  As Emily says, “Design allows creativity to have a structure.  And that allows you to come up with solutions you wouldn’t otherwise come up with.”  Making a bean bag toss or a chicken coop or even a farmer’s market is one thing.  Working with people is another.  The visionary school superintendent is fired immediately after Emily and Matt arrive.  The school board votes to keep their program but eliminate their salaries.  As Matt points out, while he can fit in, Emily is a triple outcast in the North Carolina rural community — half-Asian, female, and a designer.  As Emily points out, working together under so much stress puts a lot of pressure on their relationship.  And, as she also notes, they are trying to build something with a construction crew made up of teenagers.

Advertisement

This is a compelling narrative both in its own terms and as a metaphor of many of the core themes and conflicts in America today.  It is a compelling indictment of our failure to inspire our young people with meaningful educational opportunities and a thrilling glimpse of how easy it is to transform the way we think about education and re-connect to our sense of possibilities.  It is also a daunting portrayal of the entrenched mindsets and lack of courage that stands in the way.  Design can solve problems, but only if we let it.

Parents should know that this movie has some depictions of high-stress  economic circumstances, references to prejudice, and a dead animal.

Family discussion:  What was Matt and Emily’s biggest challenge?  Their biggest accomplishment?  Check out the movie’s website to see what happened to the students.

If you like this, try: “Waiting for Superman” and “Wordplay”

Previous Posts

Tonight on PBS: A Capitol Fourth with Barry Manilow, Hunter Hayes, and KC and the Sunshine Band
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IQqWgdF1z0[/youtube] Tune in tonight to watch A Capitol Fourth on PBS, featuring Barry Manilow, Hunter Hayes, KC and the Sunshine Band, Alabama, and Lang Lang, and hosted by Bradley Whitford. And ...

posted 12:00:57pm Jul. 04, 2015 | read full post »

Marvin Gaye Sings the Star Spangled Banner
Happy 4th of July! [vimeo]https://vimeo.com/34606761[/vimeo] ...

posted 8:38:56am Jul. 04, 2015 | read full post »

The Declaration of Independence -- Happy 4th of July!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETroXvRFoKY ...

posted 7:00:25am Jul. 04, 2015 | read full post »

For the 4th of July: Singing Founding Fathers in "1776"
Happy Independence Day!  Every year, I recommend the rousing musical about the Declaration of Independence. "1776" makes the Founding Fathers vivid, human, and interesting characters, and is so involving that you almost forget that you already ...

posted 8:00:01am Jul. 03, 2015 | read full post »

Sesame Street's Maria Says Goodbye
Sonia Manzano has announced that she is leaving Sesame Street after 44 years.  She was 22 years old when she auditioned for the brand new series that would revolutionize children's programming. She became Maria, one of the first Latina ...

posted 1:20:21pm Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.