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Put the Camera on Me (2003)

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Before he went on to direct Jawbreaker (1999) Sparkler (1997) Darren Stein grew up making videos. Along with his friend 'Adam Shell' and the other neighborhood kids these young film makers ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marc Entous ...
Justin Satinover ...
Adam Shell ...
Evan Stein ...
Lisa Weiner ...
Allen Williams ...
Barbara Satinover ...
Ellen Shell ...
Elaine Stein ...
Ron Stein ...
Robert Weiner ...
Himself (as Bob Weiner)
Roz Weiner ...
Hillary Dell ...


Before he went on to direct Jawbreaker (1999) Sparkler (1997) Darren Stein grew up making videos. Along with his friend 'Adam Shell' and the other neighborhood kids these young film makers touched on such adult subjects as jealousy, cruelty, and sexuality. Written by

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Putting the Camera on Childhood
1 February 2006 | by (San Francisco, California USA) – See all my reviews

PUT THE CAMERA ON ME is a deceptively cute film. It is actually a complex glimpse at the psychology of children and offers interesting insights into the development of adults and an artist. On the surface this is a nostalgic look at some home movies made in the 80's by a group of upper class neighborhood kids. One of the film's directors, Darren Stein, had access to a video camera and quickly took over as the artistic leader for all of the movies. Sure, these are just some cute kids having fun. But, this is also much more. This is a look into some moments in time as children grapple with a number of confusing issues that all of us face in life --- fear, sexual awakening, unrequited love, loneliness and just trying to make sense of the adult world which seems to explode all around us. As we get older we tend to forget how overwhlelming the realities of life were when we were little.

What makes this film all the more valid is to watch a young Darren Stein turn into a little general of a filmmaker. It is clear that Darren is running this show and these little movies are his vision but they are all informed by his friends, their problems, the interpersonal dynamics and the general confusion regarding the horrors of adult life. A lot of children make home movies, but I've never heard of or seen children create "little" movies about the holocaust, homosexuality, nuclear war and the inability to fit in and make friends. These kids are confronting and dealing with some heavy stuff!

The power of this film is the way Stein and Shell pull various scenes together so tightly with running interviews with the kids --- all now adults and all still friends. This adds a new angle to the film. How many of us have stayed in touch with our childhood friends? These guys have. And, many of the issues with which they were dealing are still running between them two decades later.

Among the conflicts -- a confession of a crush reveals a heart still broken, a very normal childhood sexual experience continues to be a "sticky" subject between two of the men, some ongoing resentments over the dynamics of relationships and there is still a member of this team who remains very much in charge and in center stage! Which makes perfect sense as one watches these home movies progress over the course of a couple of years. Darren Stein is a director. No doubt about it.

Stein and Shell take turns chatting with each other from time to time and one can't help but imagine the awkwardness of allowing us to peek into the young lives of these people. This is particularly true for Stein who has gone on to a great deal of success in the entertainment industry as a film producer, writer and director. From the first moment of PUT THE CAMERA ON ME we can see the emergence of a gay little boy trying to figure it all out. We also see sides of the artistic mind and personality that are not always "nice" or "caring" --- and, this is a bold move for any artist to share with an audience.

There are so many revealing moments, but the most disturbing and complex moments involve a movie in which we see a Jewish concentration camp victim being tortured and killed by a Nazi. We discover thru interviews and narration that the Nazi is played by a Jewish child and the part of the victim is played by a gentile child. It is a painfully disturbing moment that glimpses into the darker side of fear and the way children work thru the horrors of the adult world that are beyond adult understanding much less that of a child.

This is much more than some home movies. This documentary captures the pain, beauty, joy and sadness of growing up. Powerful stuff --- and well worth seeing!


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