PROM NIGHT IN KANSAS CITY
2002, color, 54 mins.
Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125
Filmmaker Hali Lee grew up in suburban Kansas City, where she remembers her own high school prom as a drag. In later years, however, she became obsessed with trying to understand the appeal of this quintessentially American tradition—was it the pageantry, the poignant pretensions of teenagers dressing up as ‘adults,' the myth of prom as a pagan coming-of-age ritual, or the ersatz memories? To discover the answers, she returns to her hometown to follow diverse teenagers from four different Kansas City communities as they prepare for their proms and the "Night of their Lives"—Smurf, the inner-city track star, wants to be Prom King; Nick, Beth and Mary, all devout Christians, must dress modestly for their proms, where they are not allowed to dance; Gayla, an out lesbian, wears a tuxedo to hers, accompanied by her girlfriend; and Oliver, the skeptical, anti-prom slacker, decides to videotape his. In the end, the filmmaker learns that prom night offers the chance to create stories about ourselves, stories that say something about who we are.
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Reviews“...engaging...strikes an audience chord of collective nostalgia.” —Variety
“An amusing and entertaining documentary, with outstanding writing, editing, photography, and music; highly recommended."—Library Journal
“Highly Recommended—Filmmakers Hali Lee and Peter Von Ziegesar’s Prom Night In Kansas City looks at class, education, money, race, and sexual-preference biases in America through the prism of a semi-antiquated institution: the high school prom. Filmed literally in middle America—Kansas City—over a period of several years, the documentary explores how different schools, families, and students celebrate prom nights.” —Video Librarian