Friday, January 10, 2014

A Place Where Hope Lives in 'If You Build It'

Night view of Windsor Super Market. Photo through "If You Build It" Facebook page.

SURE to join "American Promise" on the education film screening circuit is "If You Build It." The latter film has its non-film festival circuit premiere today at New York City's IFC Center before rolling out in select venues across the United States. (

In "American Promise," a documentary by Brooklyn filmmaking couple Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson, viewers take a 14-year journey in the educational life of the pair's, son, Idris, and a friend. What a journey! (

Likewise for Patrick Creadon's latest. "If You Build It" chronicles a year in the life of a test project in Bertie County, North Carolina led by partners in life and work, Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller. The outside-the-box educators take under the wing 10 high school juniors in a project called Project H Design, or less formally, "Studio H."

The mission of Studio H is to teach design techniques and critical thinking, problem-solving skills through a social conscience prism that encompasses humanity, habitats, health and happiness. It's a tall order, as PC's film records the highs and lows of undertaking such an audacious, subversive experiment.

At one point, Studio H funding is threatened through no fault of the teachers or the students. The couple has personal setbacks, too. Through it all, teachers and students persevere. When the idea surfaces of the students building a farmers market that can benefit the whole underserved community, Studio H regains traction. The result is Windsor Super Market, which opened in October 2011. (

In "I.O.U.S.A." and "Wordplay," PC considered the disparate subjects of the national debt and the crossword puzzle community. "If You Build It" suggests that the filmmaker will tackle whatever subjects capture his imagination. This latest is under 90 mins. A lot happens at dizzying speeds; viewers will be left wanting more.

In the end, though, the myriad pieces do seem to fit together, as in a crossword puzzle. The students have built a farmers market structure and the community is coming out to support it. Similarly, PC has built a film. Hopefully, the general public will go to see it.

Like "American Promise," "If You Build It" does not have a happy ending. It has a hopeful ending.

Visit to learn more about "If You Build It."

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