Summercamp! 2007 | Movie
The unmistakable scent of lake water, pine sap and bug juice permeates this utterly charming documentary about a group of 9-14 year-old kids who spend three weeks at a coed Wisconsin summer camp. In summer, 2003, filmmakers Bradley Beesley (THE FEARLESS FR… (more)
The unmistakable scent of lake water, pine sap and bug juice permeates this utterly charming documentary about a group of 9-14 year-old kids who spend three weeks at a coed Wisconsin summer camp. In summer, 2003, filmmakers Bradley Beesley (THE FEARLESS FREAKS: FEATURING THE FLAMING LIPS) and Sarah Price (AMERICAN MOVIE, THE YES MEN), stitched name labels into their underwear, packed up their insect spray, calamine lotion and a digital camera, and dared to join the 90 or so kids -- and their intrepid counselors -- at Wisconsin's picturesque Swift Nature Camp. What they captured will be a heady nostalgia trip for anyone who went to summer camp, and an interesting peek into a hallowed American tradition -- and a godsend for exhausted parents -- for all who didn't. Beesley and Price begin with a series a brief introductions to the small group of kids they'll be following: Fourteen-year-old Cameron, an attention grabber from Kennedy, Illinois; Tyler, the12-year-old son of a female bodybuilder who plans on working on his pecs; 10-year-old Stephanie from Skokie, who just loves reptiles; 9-year-old Holly, who wants to go to Hollywood (or California, she doesn't care which one); Spencer, an11-year-old hamster owner who likes adults better than kids; and preternaturally mature Bailey, who prefers animals to either one. Humans, in her considered opinion, are "just pink blobs with no defenses." Over the course of their three-week stay at Swift, their full personalities begin to emerge. Pint-sized Spencer is a huge Tom Clancy fan (this summer he's plowing through Executive Orders) who plans on joining the military and misses his workaholic dad; Bailey refuses to sweat the small stuff and remains coolly detached from the intra-bunk social politics, Cameron reveals himself to be an insecure bully who only wants the other kids to like him; and the wonderfully ethereal Holly lives in a strange world of her own filled with chickadees no else can see. Not a whole lot happens, really: The boys give each other wedgies and flirt with the girls; the younger kids take clowning lessons. Everyone performs in a talent show, they write letters home, get homesick and generally act like kids at summer camp. Someone gets a fishhook in his eye. Beesley and Price's young subjects are smart and unusually articulate, and they talk about their lives with a perspective one doesn't expect from children. But about halfway through of this beautifully shot documentary, an unsettling fact surfaces: a disturbing number of these intelligent and funny campers are on some form of medication, having been diagnosed with everything from ADHT, ADD, depression and even bi-polar disorder. The film quietly suggests that denied their Game Boys and laptops and returned for a bit to their natural habitat -- i.e., the semi-wild -- most of these kids are just fine. It's a good point and the film is great fun, and the perfectly summer-sun baked soundtrack comes largely courtesy of Beesley's good pals, the Flaming Lips.
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