Education of Shelby Knox, The (2005)
Directed & produced by Marion Lipschultz & Rose Rosenblatt. Photography, Gary Keith Griffin. Exec. Producers Sally Jo Fifer (ITVS) & Cara Mertes (POV). A presentation of ITVS (Independent Television Service) & Incite Pictures/ Cine Qua Non. 76 minutes
This winner at Sundance (Excellence in Cinematography Award Documentary) was recently shown at the Art Theatre as part of the most successful festival of documentaries. The audience voted it as the best of the lot. By popular requests, it will be repeated (2 showings) next weekówith discussions following. A DO NOT MISS work.
A brief note about its directors. Ms. Lipschutz grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY and has a M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU. Ms. Rosenblatt, born in Austria, moved to Canada at age 4, then to the USA at age 8.
Shelby Knox, a schoolgirl (schoolperson?) is from Lubbock, Texas. When a sophomore, age 15, she became active (soon with a passion) in trying to bring sex education to the city's high schools. There were good reasons for her crusade. Pregnancy and STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) were like an epidemic among teenagers. Matters also worsen with pressure on schoolgirls to have boyfriends. And the sole, standard answer given by the local adults, including school and church officials, is abstinence. Period.
Shelby, an excellent and talented student, has pledged abstinence until she is married. She proclaims this openly and often. In her sophomore, junior, and senior years she was an increasingly active warrior. (Note that this documentary was filmed steadily over those those years, no mean accomplishment.)
Early on Shelby hopes to reinforce her outspoken views by running for President ≠ the word "Mayor" is used --of the student body. But she is defeated by Corey Nichols, a sleek, smooth, clever strategist who will surely become a politician.
Shelby has an impossible road to hew. Lubbock, current population 206.000 (252.000 for the county) is a most conservative and heavily church-going place. I just checked statistics:
Lubbock's record goes to Baptist churches (68), followed by Church of Christ (27), Methodist (24), Catholic (18), Assembly of God (12), Presbyterian (6), Lutheran (6), Nazarene (4), Episcopal (3), Pentecostal (3), Seventh Day Adventist (1), Orthodox (1) , Evangelical (1).
Locally, the common, oft-mentioned slogan about of priorities, is: God ≠ Family ≠Country, in that order. In any case, church spokesmen do disapprove of premarital sex but, like most of he locals oppose sex education. A preacher tells a crowd of youths "You are convicted personally" (he meant "convinced") but obviously that's not enough to fight the scourge with. The slogan here is "True Love Waits," an expression Shelby embraces though she knows, and knows well, that it doesn't go very far. And the near totality of Lubbock's citizens appear to be totally dominated by their religion.
The movie goes in many directions, is a complicated and complex affair, and defies simple or simple-minded notions. At some point there enters a newish element: the gays in the student population and their own struggles. The latter include some quiet, pathetic street scenes, while the large, anti-gay opposition by the locals shapes up as virulent reactions, insults, posters, including huge ones carried by older ladies. It's a sad sight.
Shelby, whose activities are legion, naturally is for the under-dogs, and adopts the Gay struggle, to the puzzlement of her parents, At this point, I note that some reviewers stress that Shelby's mother and father are in what we might call the enemy camp. That's a wrong reading since ma and pa, both likeable, while not agreeing with the daughter, keep genuinely smiling faces, and probably admire the young lady's tenacity.
The film closes with Shelby, now at the University of Texas, actively supporting causes that deserve it.
A highly recommended film. Given the originality and scope of the movie, I hope that someday there will be a separate, short, behind-the-scenes documentary of how "The Education" was shot.