Saturday, September 2, 2023

#2,925. All American High Revisited (2014) - Documentaries About Film


If you need a smile, or a pick-me-up, then you’ll want to check out director Keva Rosenfeld’s All American High Revisited. It is an incredibly fun documentary.

Released in 1987, Rosenfeld’s original film, simply titled All American High, followed the senior class of Torrance High School in Los Angeles as they navigated their way through the 1983-’84 school year, from the first day of class all the way to graduation. The cameras were there to capture it all, from classes and assemblies to student elections and the Senior Prom. And, of course, the parties, which could get a little rowdy. One party host went so far as to charge admission, to ensure he’d have enough money to repair any damages caused by the revelers.

We meet a few key members of the class of ’84, but our guide for this journey is Finnish exchange student Rikki Rauhala. As an outsider to American customs, Rauhala offers some fascinating insights, on cheerleaders (after attending a football game, Rauhala admits she had only seen cheerleaders in the movies or on TV, never in person); her friends putting their education second to having a good time (she talks about this often); and even her classmates’ hang-ups about sex. Rauhala mentions at one point that she had two boyfriends that year, including one who took her to the Senior prom. Both relationships ended when the boys were slow to act, and too shy to make a move.

Along with being a time capsule of life in the mid-1980s (I was a freshman in ’83-’84, and to see that era alive again, from the fashion to the music, was very, very cool), All American High is an expose of teen culture at that time, as seen through the eyes of someone (Rikki) who had only just joined it.

But as good as All American High is, it’s the Revisited part of the movie that really blew me away!

Thirty years after shooting the movie, in 2014, Rosenfeld reconnected with Rauhala as well as a few other members of the Torrance Class of ’84. At that point, Rauhala was living in Karjaa, Finland (which a graphic informs us is 5,602 miles from Torrance High). She was married and the mother of three children, including a daughter who was herself about to graduate.

We also reconnect with William, who we met briefly when he offered insight into a mock wedding ceremony, a class project the students had to complete, which was designed to teach them about relationships and how best to handle any issues that might arise later in life. Sporting a pair of sunglasses, the 1984 William talked of how he wasn’t impressed with the mock weddings. Looking at that footage 30 years later, William, now a contractor, quipped that he is almost positive the reason he was wearing sunglasses during that interview was that he was high!

This later Revisited segment (which takes up the final half hour of the movie) also contains a clip from a (then) recent public screening of All American High, which played on a double bill with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. While on-stage for a Q & A with Amy Heckerling (Director of Fast Times), Rosenfeld asked the crowd if anyone from that Torrance class was in attendance, and was thrilled when a good number of people stood up!

The highlight of the Revisited sequence, though, was sitting down with Rauhala and her family in Finland as they watched the movie. With her kids playfully taunting her, Rauhala got to see her teenage self again, and even remarks that it seems like it could have all happened “six months ago”. To see the look on her face, the emotion in her eyes, was priceless.

All American High Revisited is one of those movies, one of those experiences, that reminds me why I so love the cinema.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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