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"Our Time," A Documentary About Today's American Youth.

by Eric Kohn
July 17, 2011 9:16 AM
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I've been really curious about "Our Time," a documentary directed by Matt Heineman and Matt Wiggins about four recent college grads traveling the country in a quest to understand it. I have yet to watch the movie, which premiered on the Documentary Channel last night, but there will be other opportunities: It's currently available on Amazon and making its way to other VOD platforms soon. In the meantime, I've asked my friend and current Columbia University doctorate candidate Ryan Hagen, who contributed some writing to "Our Time," for his brief thoughts on the project.

UPDATE: "Our Time" will receive on encore airing on July 22 at 8:30 p.m. on the Documentary Channel.

Four young friends set off to see for themselves what their generation is all about. In 2006 they drove across the country and back asking questions of -- well just about everyone they met. They came back to New York with hundreds of taped interviews, from an astonishing cross-section of American youth. Those interviews make up "Our Time," a documentary that captures a portrait of what it means to be young in America today. There are some familiar faces in here, among them Mark Zuckerburg, in a rare appearance. Just as rare is the host of compelling characters that populate this documentary. The Iraq War veteran, the cancer researcher, the skateboarding pot dealer, the part-time prostitute, the struggling farmer, the tech mogul -- the sheer variety of lives we glimpse in the film will challenge any easily come by ideas you may have about The Kids Today. It certainly changed my perspective. That's what drew me to the film.

I joined the project as a writer long after most of the footage was shot, working with directors Matt Heineman and Matt Wiggins. There's an incredible empathy in these interviews. While it's hard to draw generalizations about an entire generation, what we see over and over from the young people in "Our Time" is a real desire to understand and be understood, to push against the neat perceptions other people have about who we are. And I think the final cut of this film reflects that. Early on, we tried to draw some tidy conclusions about what sets the Millenial generation apart. In the end, we realized that the truth is much messier, and more interesting. Almost every interview in the film contains a moment of surprise, some unexpected turn that leaves you with a more complicated understanding of a person who you had thought you'd figured out from the first frame. So treat yourself to "Our Time" when you can, and I hope it will make you see those strangers around you just a little differently.


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