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12.10.08

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Phaedra

Billy the Kid

One disc; Zeitgeist; $29.99

Reviewed by Richard von Busack


Jennifer Venditti's intimate cinéma-vérité study of Billy, an isolated 15-year-old from rural Brunswick, Maine; it's told in his own words and is a study in contradictions. Billy is drawn to violent games and is subject to serious anger, but he also longs for love and is gentle at heart. Romantic fantasies almost overcome him. Venditti sets up the conflict between Billy's immersion in blood-and-thundering pop culture (KISS does the soundtrack) and his intense sensitivity. She doesn't blame the adults for Billy's isolation, either; his high school isn't an urban charnel house. Additions to this noteworthy documentary are a commentary track and some brief on-camera interviews with Venditti; she describes how she was forced during one cut of the film to add a title card explaining that Billy has Asperger's syndrome, a gesture she didn't want to make because she hated labeling the boy-man. Zeitgeist is offering the film at a reduced rate to educators. While this is certainly a unique film about the plight of adolescence, it especially has a great deal to offer a schoolroom, and I'd be fascinated to hear what high school students think of it.


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