SFIFF: Films About Teenagers

After the Kanbar Award event, I caught two other films at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Coincidentally, both were about teenagers. Both were also very good.

B+ Children of the Princess of Cleves. In France as in every other country, adolescents must deal with ranging hormones, overly-strict parents (in their eyes, at least), tests that will determine their future, peer pressure, and learning about great literature. Régis Sauder’s documentary follows several working-class and immigrant teens who, while preparing for an important exam, are also studying an important early French novel, La princesse de Clève. Much of the film simply shows the kids as they read (and recite) passages from the book. They also discuss what characters they identify with and why, and their lives in general. It’s a fascinating look at how literature is learned and it’s importance. I have to admit, however, that I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had even a passing familiarity with the original novel, something that I assume the intended French audience has. Unfortunately, there are no other scheduled screenings, and no one has picked up this movie for American distribution.

A Terri. Terri (newcomer Jacob Wysocki) has problems well beyond those of your average adolescent. For one thing, he’s extremely overweight. He lives with a metally-ill uncle, forcing him into caregiver responsibilities. He dresses only in pajamas, and gets to school late almost every day. On the upside, the school’s guidance counselor (the always dependable and wonderful John C. Riley) has taken an interest in Terri. Maybe that’s not such an upside; this counselor didn’t strike me as particularly competent. Azazel Jacobs’ second feature walks a wonderfully fine line between comedy and drama, finding the humor in Terri’s situation—and the situations of other sufferers around him—without ever sacrificing empathy. The filmmakers show a keen and sympathetic eye for the reality of adolescence.

After the screening, Jacobs, his producers, and the three leading cast members came onstage for some Q&A.

Although this Centerpiece screening was Terri’s only showing at the festival, it is expected to receive a theatrical release.