Boys to Men?
The Crisis in Teenage Masculinity
Filmmaker Frederick Marx's powerful follow-up to his critically acclaimed documentary Hoop Dreams
continues his extraordinary exploration of the lives of boys and young men. Concerned once again with the distance between boys' dreams and the limits of reality, Marx focuses on a group of teenagers from a range of ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds as they navigate troubled lives and shifting ideals of manhood. The result is an intimate and accessible snapshot of the deeper crisis in American masculinity. The DVD includes three additional pieces that focus on one boy at a time.
Sections: Are You Listening? | Al-Tran | Cisco | Spencer
Director, Producer, Editor: Frederick Marx
Music Supervisors: Barry Cole, Christopher Covert
Production Assistants: Karen Bell, Joseph Bellavia, Paulo Cerqueira, RJ Del Russo, Annette Rosenblatt
Research: Shaheed Smith, Annette Rosenblatt
Praise for the Film
"This informative and revealing centerpiece to a projected trilogy exploring the challenges facing American teenage boys in their passage to manhood amply meets the high expectations director Frederick Marx established in its first installment, the acclaimed 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams
, which closely followed the divergent paths of two inner-city Chicago youths from middle school to college. Marx culled the material for the chief segment of Boys to Men?
(aptly titled "Are You Listening?") from interviews he conducted in 2000 with several ethnically and socio-economically diverse groups of 15 - 16 year-old boys from the Newark, New Jersey area, resulting in a rich array of highly personalized and candid reflections over a wide range of topics such as adulthood aspirations, body self-image, adult expectations, anger, peer pressure, and relationships with parents, friends and girlfriends. The result powerfully supports Marx's contention that a "crisis of masculinity" exists among boys today and, moreover, that one of its sources lies in the confusion of contradictory messages they absorbed from the culture at large (particularly from popular media). Recommended."
- Educational Media Reviews Online
"This series profiles three racially diverse, seriously troubled young men. Al-Tran and Cisco's fathers have abandoned them, and the needs of their dysfunctional mothers are often conflicting. Spencer's family is more traditional, but he suffers from seizures and is hostile and an outcast at school. This cinematically brutal and honest series takes a close-up look at the boys' problems through dialogue, body language, and interactions with family members, authorities, and others. Al-Tran has big dreams, but his resentment over his mother's efforts to keep him in a rigorous Catholic school sinks him into a serious depression. Cisco dropped out of school, and his mother does not support those who are trying to get him back on track. Spencer's family is desperate to find treatment for his problems. Their pain is visible, as are Spencer's desperation and fear. Although no easy answers are provided, the programs include thoughtful questions for classroom or other group discussion."
- Edie Ching | Booklist | September 2005
"Frederick Marx, one of the writers and producers of the 1994 film classic "Hoop Dreams"
, has created a series called "Boys to Men?"
in which he takes a look at three very different fifteen and sixteen-year old boys... All three films leave many unanswered questions about how boys grow to be men. What is the role of mentors and father figures? What is the role of the school? How does society move boys from dependent boyhood into independent manhood?"
- Sarah Flowers | VOYA | August 2005
"Frederick Marx, a co-writer and editor of 1994's much-honored Hoop Dreams, directed this short documentary (one of three in the Boys to Men?
series) about a 15-year-old, fatherless boy named Al-Tran, who leads a rudderless existence under the watchful eye of his single mother. Despite the latter's best efforts, support and guidance from his school - an all-boys prep academy - and Al-Tran's own talents as an actor and poet, the thoughtful young man cannot overcome chronic depression and low self-esteem, which he attributes to growing up without a dad. Marx's fly-on-the-wall camera captures the sad decline of Al-Tran's hopes and spirit as he drops out of school and attempts to find a path in life, while interviews with him, his mom, teachers, and others offer insights into the potential problems of being raised without same-sex mentors. A compassionate and cautionary film... Recommended."
- Video Librarian | May-June 2005
"Frederick Marx: a major talent in American filmmaking. All his work is imbued with power, intelligence, social concern, and utter dedication."
- Gerry Richman | Program Director, KTCA-TV (PBS)