Last Year at the Crossing (2018) Documentary Feature/Indiana Spotlight 75 Minutes/USA/2018 Education Director: Kathy Bruner Premise: An alternative high school in small-town Indiana is the last, best chance for four struggling teens to earn a diploma. Their dedicated school administrator holds out hope that this is the year they can overcome their obstacles. A heartbreaking and hopeful portrait of teens […]
Premise: An alternative high school in small-town Indiana is the last, best chance for four struggling teens to earn a diploma. Their dedicated school administrator holds out hope that this is the year they can overcome their obstacles. A heartbreaking and hopeful portrait of teens trying to rise above their circumstances.
Last Year at the Crossing is the work of a promising documentarian who knows how to remain objective while allowing her subjects to retain control over their narrative. Filmmaker Kathy Bruner has a keen eye for finding that narrative within her subject and presenting it in an engaging and empathetic manner.
The documentary elicits sympathy for the four troubled youths it showcases by simply letting them tell us about their struggles. It’s through showing us what they are going through that we learn about their daily life and problems. This is an effective tool because merely telling us about the issues facing the people being profiled would have been far less effective and more disconnected for the audience.
The teenagers in the documentary face unexpected pregnancies, theft, and a lack of motivation for the school work that needs to be done. The film also does a solid job of explaining what The Crossing is and how it works. I appreciated that, although the organization is faith-based, the focus by the administrators is completely on the students’ well-being and scholastic aptitude. There’s no preaching or appeal to the Higher Power for guidance when these teenagers face hard times. It’s simply a matter of picking themselves up and working harder.
At its heart, this is a hopeful documentary that doesn’t judge its subjects. At the same time, it doesn’t give them a free pass nor does it shy away from showing them stumble. The students in this documentary don’t all have happy endings but the film shows us that the end of their story here isn’t a definitive ending. Last Year at the Crossing demonstrates that the students’ futures truly are in their own hands and they are not purely victims of circumstance. And that is a powerful and inspirational message to leave us on.
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