Institute History

  • 1985 Sundance Film Festival


Undertaken as part of the Peter Davis “Middletown” series for PBS, Seventeen is the disturbing story of a “typical” group of teenagers, uninterested in school, angry at the system, uncommitted to the future, and in conflict with everything around them.

We see them first in their Home Economics class at school. Their boredom and antagonism is barely hidden beneath the surface, as they chide and taunt the teacher, a woman seemingly oblivious to their routines. We see them at home, the products of middle class families, whose parental guidance seems strained and ineffective. We see them getting together for a beer bash, smoking dope on the sly, and acting out all the juvenile fantasies that seem to accompany adolescence.

What is particularly disturbing about the film is that we see these kids in such a way as to practically predict the inevitability of their futures: a dreary, unenlightened dead-end. And it is almost as though the teens somehow innately understand their predicament, without ever confronting it. Seventeen, intended as a part of the PBS series “Middletown,” was pulled from broadcast when specific cuts requested by PBS were denied. A dense exchange of accusations and counter-accusations followed and continues to this day, none of which however, should obscure the excellence of the film itself.

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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