a teen movie with “woke” sauce

a teen movie with “woke” sauce

Tyris Winter in


This summer, the American teen movie saw a “woke” update (a term that qualifies someone who is “awake”, aware of social or racial problems) of its software. Released a few months ago Where we come from, by Jon M. Chu, showed the daily life of a Latino neighborhood in the process of gentrification. The film juggled between sugary romanticism and social anchoring, evoking, through musical numbers, discrimination, precariousness and community pride – in a way West Side Story (film which will soon have its Spielbergian remake). He raised political consciousness in the midst of a genre that is above ground by definition, withdrawn into emotional problems – but which, let us specify, has produced masterpieces. Following him, Summertime confirms the trend: that of a politicized youth, or at least tormented by the state of the world and eager to make it known.

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Carlos Lopez Estrada (director from the Disney stable) is not satisfied with this observation alone, and tries to find a suitable form for it. The concept of Summertime would have been born from a workshop of spoken word (oralization of a text, halfway between poetry and slam) where each artist gives his intimate story a demanding, rhythmic and demanding form. Twenty-five young artists from this workshop make up the cast of the film, the principle of which consists of a long summer stroll through the streets of Los Angeles: like an onlooker constantly challenged and distracted, the film slips from a character to another.

Fascinating sociological object

Each character has his skit, and each skit inevitably provokes a moment of spoken word – written and recited by the actor himself. The great diversity of the cast makes it possible to evoke a wide spectrum of issues: homophobia, grossophobia, anti-Asian racism, painful relationship with one’s community, galloping gentrification, or more simply heartache, childhood nostalgia, declaration of love to his city. The texts, like their recitations, are virtuosic and constitute more than mere stops in the fiction – they are the fiction itself.

The great diversity of the cast makes it possible to discuss a wide spectrum of issues

Summertime assumes its funny bittersweet tone, both super-sweet, bordering on the cutesy at the end, and at the same time eager to show that its youth has both eyes wide open, that it is articulate and, more than that, talented. In several places, the film appears as a fascinating sociological object, since it no longer shows a youth federated by rites of passage common to all, but quite the opposite: each finds himself isolated in his particular experience and trauma, but all manage to unite in the name of an intersectional struggle that the film tries to stir up – here represented by the limousine that takes them all away.

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