In the early 80’s PBS aired the deceptively simple but fascinating six-part documentary series Middletown. “Middletown” (aka Muncie, Indiana) is a real slice of Americana, and each chapter in the series explores a different aspect of this small town’s life. While parts one through five follow the mayoral race, a local sports rivalry, religious fundamentalists, a family business, and two divorcees looking for a second chance at love, the satisfying denouement of the series is Seventeen.
As its title suggests, Seventeen is all about, well, adolescence. Cameras were granted uncensored access to the lives of the seniors of Muncie’s Southside High School. The result is one of the most disarmingly witty, complex, and honest depictions of what it means to be teenage. The film’s display of interracial dating, sex, drugs, and general snottiness towards adults by youth was so goddamn honest that is was simultaneously banned by PBS and rewarded the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1985.
Screened rarely in New York, Middletown was dug up by the amazing cinephiles at the Spectacle Theater, Brooklyn’s own independent DIY movie theater that showcases rare films. On February 23, Spectacle started screening all six parts of Middletown and if you missed out on parts one through four, you’ll have your chance to catch the final two chapters this Thursday March 8 (“Second Time Around” at 7:30 and “Seventeen” at 9:30). For $5 (or $10 for a double feature) you can get your Teenage fix this Thursday night.
Alexandra Stergiou is a filmmaker based in New York City. In addition to directing “Citizen Zero,” a documentary about immigration, she is also producing/starring in “Laying Over,” an independent film set in Brooklyn.