A clever recycling of home movies plus follow-up interviews, “Put the Camera on Me” — from practiced young commercial director Darren Stein (“Jawbreaker,” “Sparkler”) and neophyte co-helmer Adam Shell — shines a not especially flattering spotlight on the privileged American suburban childhood in a media saturated era. The Southern California kids viewed act out formative fantasies in variably squirm-inducing forms which discomfortingly reveal preadolescent power plays still resonant in their adult relations. Compacted verite package might tempt select broadcasters looking for safe yet provocative fare.
Stein was the admitted elder and leader of an Encino, Calif., crew whose doings were shot from an early age by indulgent, camcorder-savvy parents — though control of the lens was quickly taken over by eldest son. He soon hypnotized kids in the close-knit ‘hood by constantly filming fantasies that encompassed everything from nuclear war and ninja fighting to amateur gore-horror, Vietnam War combat, child abuse, Nazi concentration camp executions and New Wave musical lip-synching. Was this play healthy exploration or youthful pathology? In retrospect, flamboyant Stein’s manipulations are regarded with both bemusement and lingering resentment by pals who largely remain locked in pre-adolescent power dynamics. Presentation is lively, even antic, yet finally overextended and more depressing than intended.