Saturday, March 25, 2017

Now on Netflix: The Student Body (2016)

The Student Body (2016) - Directed by Bailey Webber, Michael Webber.

By Kenny Howell

A determined young woman takes on the state government in this new documentary in part about the obesity epidemic.

Bailey Webber was a quiet, accomplished high school student who didn't try to make waves until she found a reason to do so. At first it was the dismissal of her principal, but then an even bigger issue arose. The state legislature of Ohio started sending letters with report cards if a student was deemed to have an unhealthy BMI. BMI is not the most accurate indicator of a student's overall health, so this letter reached some kids that it did more harm than good. Plus, the kids weren't told that this would happen when they were tested in their schools. Or at least that is what Webber is claiming.

So Webber sets out to figure out why this was happening. She goes to the school board, and finds out it was a initiative passed by the state legislature. She spends part of her time talking to people affected by the measure, many of which had no business receiving a letter, and the other part trying to talk to the people that passed it, something those people aren't very willing to talk about, specifically the sponsor.

Webber is kind of like a young Michael Moore except with a sweet, likable personality. She keeps the same tone, at least on camera with someone she agrees with and ones she does not. She even lets opposition voices speak, and does give them a bit of credit.

But her demeanor shouldn't fool you because she is very persistent, and won't let people brush her aside. The Student Body feels like a really well done high school/early college student documentary at times, and Bailey may insert herself into a bit much (like Moore), but there is no denying her determination. It is quite infectious, despite a kind of MTV-esque voice over by Bailey, and it really lets you forgive some of its faults. I wouldn't be surprised if she is already working on something else, because she seems to have a real hunger for it. And I am all for it. It is nice to see young people fight for what they think is right, and see it through to the end, something I never did as a teenager. Her doggedness is refreshing, and really carries the film.

The Student Body is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ***

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