The latest film by Berkeley filmmaker Tom Weidlinger, Boys Will Be Men, premiered in San Francisco two weeks ago. Monday nights screening was organized by the Berkeley PTA Council in response to what PTA member Cynthia Papermaster called the deep need and yearning in our community to deal with these issues.
Papermaster said the prevalence of bullying, homophobia and outright violence at Berkeley schools has reached a level where parents are desperately seeking explanations and solutions such as the ones offered in the film. Boys Will be Men begins with experts describing how boys are often taught to be "tough" and to internalize emotions and feelings. The result, one expert argues, is that boys learn to express themselves by acting out rather than by verbalizing feelings as girls might do.
In a line that drew laughter from the audience, the experts say that boys spend their first years in school thinking to themselves What is this place called school? It is a place run by women, for girls and boys are always getting into trouble. The film visits a Berkeley elementary school teacher struggling to prevent hyperactive boys from becoming alienated at a school that seems designed for them to fail. Boys may have different needs than girls, but if they fail to keep up academically they risk developing an achievement gap that could haunt them for the rest of their lives, the teacher says.
Turning to adolescent boys boys one expert describes as tough, stoic and ready to fight at a moments notice the film follows a group of troubled teens through a wilderness program in Idaho. Working together to overcome a series of obstacles, the boys get a taste of pride and self-worth unlike anything theyve experienced before.
Before the ever-present eye of the camera they can be seen withdrawing from their shells of cynicism, becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing their feelings. Its an emotional experience to see those boys be inspired; kids that potentially would have so much trouble, said Berkeley parent Craig McCaleb after the screening.
The film offers a wonderful explanation for how our little boys become the difficult teenagers they are, said Berkeley parent Bill Tennant.
In 25 years of making films for public television, Weidlinger said hes never seen a more immediate and universally positive reaction to one of (his) films than the reaction to Boys Will Be Men in recent weeks... Weidlinger said he hoped other communities would follow the Berkeley example and use the film to spark discussions and even reforms...