________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006


XS Stress: Teens Take Control.

Patricia Kearns (Writer & Director). Tamara Lynch (Producer). Sally Bochner (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2004.
28 min., 5 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: C9104 240.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Jocelyn A. Dimm.

**** /4


XS Stress opens with a performance by 16-year-old spoken word performer, Kyra Shaughnessy. Spoken word is a form of poetry somewhere between speaking and hip hop which Kyra performs throughout the film. Her words are powerful and reflect some of the issues and concerns of youth living in today’s world, such as violence, drugs, teen pregnancy, and acceptance.

      The film documents the stories of three young people, Sarah, 20, Kira,17, and Jarrel, also 17, as they come to terms with the difficulties and challenges in their lives. Each of these young people faces very different experiences, but, even in their diversity, the recognition of familiar feelings of disappointment and hope are apparent.

      Sarah, a foster kid and punk rocker, brandishes over 40 tattoos, some of them camouflaging the scars on her arms inflicted by self cutting – a sign of depression and stress among many teens. This young woman spent time living on the streets after unsuccessful placements in foster homes. After a stay in the hospital for attempted suicide, she found the help and encouragement she needed to be at peace with herself and to be able to use her talents as an artist and DJ to build a new life, one that included graduating with top honours from high school.

      Kira has a very close-knit family. Her trouble started when she had difficulty learning concepts in school. Frustrated, Kira struck out in anger. Until she was tested and doctors found out she was dyslexic, Kira believed she just wasn’t smart enough. With counselling, Kira has learned to manage her anger and discovered new ways to support her studies.

      Jarrel thinks that being raised by a single parent mom and being surrounded by women all the time may have contributed to his soft-spoken feminine mannerisms. Tall and thin, with cat-like moves, he is a dancer and a cheerleader. Jarrel is also a cadet and plays many instruments in the marching band. He is constantly harassed by peers who call him gay and fag, but he has stood his ground and says he loves what he does no matter what prejudiced attitudes he faces.

      The film focuses on these three young people while weaving the spoken word performance by Kyra and other youths’ comments between the segments. Teen talk about what stresses them out, what obstacles they face, and some of the ways they have discovered to overcome adversities. The film is short, just under 30 minutes, but it would be a strong segue into class discussion on the themes introduced through the teens and their stories, and it would be appealing because of the music and visuals created by the youth themselves. The video case includes extension activities and resources while the DVD version includes the full version of Kyra’s spoken word performance. The issues presented in this film are handled sensitively and are appropriate for classroom use.

Highly Recommended.

Jocelyn A. Dimm is a sessional instructor and a PhD student at the University of Victoria where she teaches drama education and young adult literature in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Faculty of Education.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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