'All American High Revisited': DOC NYC Review

Courtesy of Hamptons International Film Festival
Far more fun than attending your own high school reunion, and you don't even have to diet

Filmmaker Keva Rosenfeld delivers a remastered and updated edition of his documentary about the 1984 class of a Southern California high school

The 1984 class of Southern California's Torrance High School receives a cinematic reunion in the form of Keva Rosenfeld's new edition of his little-seen documentary chronicling their exploits. The original film, made two years after the feature that inspired it, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, received a brief 1987 theatrical release and was shown on PBS. Since then it's been unseen for decades, languishing in a vault as a virtual time capsule of '80s-era youth culture, complete with ill-advised fashion and hairstyle choices. The filmmaker has now remastered the original material and added a coda updating us on several of his subjects. The result, recently screened at DOC NYC, is All American High Revisited. Canny arthouses will no doubt want to screen it on a double bill with its fictional counterpart, as Los Angeles' American Cinematheque did not long ago.

The original film benefited greatly from its inspired decision to use bubbly 17-year-old Finnish exchange student Rikki Rauhala as an outside observer bemusedly commenting on the foibles of the school's curriculum and its students.

"I think high school here prepares more for social life than work life," she accurately observes about such classes as "Modern Lifestyles," complete with a mock wedding, and "Surfing." The teacher of the latter course joking comments about his students during role call that "If they don't answer, they've drowned."

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The original film, depicting such activities as keg parties, a prom held at the local mall, visits from crewcrutted military recruiters and a social studies class in which the students nervously discuss the Cold War's Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine, is an entertaining portrait of youngsters in an era before social media and the endless documentation of every detail of their personal lives. As such it's a valuable historical document, even if it never delves far too deep below the surface.

The tacked-on 20-minute coda brings us up to date with Rikki and several of the film's other subjects. Now living in Finland and the married mother of teenage children who look on their mother's exploits with good natured, eye-rolling derision, she trots out hometown newspaper clips from the period describing her as a "movie star."   

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The new interviews provide some amusingly ironic moments. One woman comments, "First of all, what was the deal with our hair?" while another says that she was "a Republican back then ... now, very not." A rebellious type originally seen wearing an Ozzy Osbourne t-shirt is now a highway patrolman. And a former stoner surfer, a virtual real-life incarnation of Fast Times' iconic Jeff Spicoli character, says that he has absolutely no memory of his decades-old onscreen interview.

As amusing and sometimes painfully awkward as attending your own high school reunion, All American High Revisited is a vivid reminder of both how much things change and how they remain the same.

Director/director of photography/editor: Keva Rosenfeld
Producers: Linda Maron, Keva Rosenfeld

No rating, 82 min.
 

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