Review: ‘Fame High’

Intermittently appealing but overly familiar, reality TV-style docu "Fame High" follows a quartet of talented students at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

Intermittently appealing but overly familiar, reality TV-style docu “Fame High” follows a quartet of talented students at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Nothing much surprising happens to these kids as they struggle with demanding teachers, pushy parents, raging hormones and performance anxiety in pursuit of admission to prestigious arts-ed programs. Director Scott Hamilton Kennedy (“The Garden”) favors formulaic uplift over investigation, failing to offer a p.o.v. on whether young creative people should be driven as mercilessly as these. Lackluster videography further dulls the pic, which culminates in frustratingly fleeting glimpses of the students’ year-end performances.

Redheaded 14-year-old Ruby McCollister stands out here, partly because, as a gifted thesp, she knows how to play to the camera. Jazz pianist Zak hits some wrong notes, possibly in reaction to his dad’s slave-driving. Well-named dancer Grace Song points her toes toward Juilliard and wishes her Korean-American parents would let her have a b.f. Singer-songwriter Brittany Hayes skips school to audition at bars — a potentially involving bit of drama the film doesn’t have the nerve or good fortune to capture sufficiently. Copious childhood photos take the place of psychological detail.

Fame High


A Black Valley Films presentation, in association with Whitewater Films. (International sales: Lantern Lane Entertainment, Calabasas, Calif.) Produced by Leilani Makuakane Potter, Scott Hamilton Kennedy. Executive producers, Rick Rosenthal, Chip Rosenbloom. Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy.


Camera (color, HD), Kennedy; editors, Jillian Moul, Kennedy; music, Doug DeAngelis. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (competing), April 21, 2012. Running time: 97 MIN.


Grace Song, Brittany Hayes, Zak Astor, Ruby McCollister.

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  1. CC says:

    One of the toughest films to watch, for me. Watching these kids pressuring themselves to press through trying to please their parents. So much pressure to do things that are more than a young person should put themselves through just to make sure their parents will keep loving them. Parents absolutely living through their children. I certainly hope that these kids were able to move through the pressure that was placed upon them to perform. Being creative needs to be changed from pressure to pleasure. How can anyone enjoy their gift if it comes from pressure. It’s not wonder we are all living confused. Life on earth should be joy not pain. This pain no gain way of living must be shifted to ease to self please. This is a very good film to watch in order to see what it is that we need to do to stop the pressure that we put on our children. Our children are individuals that are to be guided not controlled, that’s why it’s call ‘parental GUIDANCE’.

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