Meet the Millenials: 7 Films that Capture a Generation

*This post is a translation. Read the original here.

Well, I cried. Watching these touching documentaries on millennials, or more generally on children and teens during crucial stages in their personal growth, I was blown away by their candour, intelligence, situation and social circle. So, I am suggesting a few documentaries to help you get acquainted with this generation, starting with the one that moved me to tears.

Sorel and McMasterville: two approaches to education

Guidelines (which takes place around Sorel) and Hope Builders (in McMasterville) both follow the day-to-day school life of young teens, but with filmmaking styles as different as each institution’s educational approach.

Guidelines provides impeccable visual cinematographic production, while Hope Builders feels more like an in-depth news report. In Sorel, we see students constantly reprimanded for their erratic behaviour and held accountable to the nth degree by adult voices off camera, while the camera focuses on the students as their faults are rattled off to them. Beyond these moments of reprimand, we see these same students amuse themselves as best they can in an environment that does not really support them; they drift along the hallway walls, do burnouts with their cars, try to tackle a small skateboard jump, but clearly the opportunities available to them are limited. It’s very beautiful, but also a bit depressing.

Guidelines, Jean-François Caissy, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

And that’s where Hope Builders completely blew me away. The artistic statement fades to the background to shine the light on a sensational story. Using a teaching method tested across the province (Action Research), a teacher encourages his students to observe their immediate environment , to raise issues, reflect on these issues and potential solutions as a group, talk directly with the mayor, the police, entrepreneurs and citizens to improve a specific situation, and then (this is where I cried) gather together their parents, elected officials and other authority figures in a moving meeting during which they change their town for the good. I have never seen such positive empowerment of a group of students. The credit goes partly to the ingenuity of the program itself, and largely to the teaching method of the teacher who demonstrates patience, respect, enthusiasm, authority and benevolence. Hope Builders is the perfect title, because this is the type of initiative and interaction that we would want to see absolutely everywhere.

Hope Builders, Fernand Dansereau, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

The story told in Hannah’s Story is unique but does not have to be anecdotal; this exceptional young girl took initiatives and started a movement all by herself. That being said, it also shows that with meaningful support, you don’t have to be exceptional to achieve exceptional things; you just need to put your heads together and support one another. I should point out that Hannah is a total boss.

Hannah's Story, Juanita Peters, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Development

When we give them the floor, we often realize that young people’s minds can be much more developed than we think, since our only reference point is the subjective experience of our own adolescence. The documentary Little Big Girls illustrates the very concept of adolescence perfectly, in other words, growth so quick it is overwhelming. In this case, it involves girls hit with precocious puberty and the consequences that this development can have on their lives socially, sexually and academically. The documentary takes a look at the likely causes for their early development, noting that major shifts in hygiene and food in recent decades have contributed to earlier on-set of puberty in girls in general.

Little Big Girls, Hélène Choquette, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

And when the body develops, we become more aware of its image. Social Me illustrates a certain generational breakdown, yet an individual harmony. Nya blossoms in the carefully crafted portrayal of herself on social media, and her mother ends up respecting her seemingly innate resourcefulness on these platforms.

Social Me, Katia Café-Fébrissy, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

But not everything is rosy. In fact, it’s all a bit too much, as we are shown in documentaries such as Sexy Inc. and Staying Real; these films focus on the hypersexualization of a generation, constantly exposed to images of stars with perfectly sculpted bodies and exchanges based on sex. How do you stay true to yourself and develop your own sexual and personal preferences when a relatively monolithic example of sexuality (the Ken and Barbie stereotype, to simplify this to the extreme) dominates culture? As these documentaries show us, millennials may be better equipped to tackle these challenges than we could have imagined.

Sexy Inc. Our Children Under Influence , Sophie Bissonnette, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Staying Real – Teens Confront Sexual Stereotypes, Sophie Bissonnette, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Like I said, give them the floor, and you will definitely want to listen.