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P.O.V. Home Economics

Hand-held shots from a moving car are emblematic, establishing a feel for the setting.

Hand-held shots from a moving car are emblematic, establishing a feel for the setting.

These insightful women reflect on their surroundings and a range of topics: racism, the disintegration of the traditional family unit, decor, work ethics, the meaning of home ownership and the tolls of a two-hour commute to work in L.A. — one of which reportedly is the highest rate of child abuse in Los Angeles County.

Prompted by Cool, who appears on camera and whose questions often are heard on the soundtrack, they muse on the American dream and how material values, like desiring a beautiful home, conflict with more spiritual concerns such as keeping a family together.

We tour some of the model homes that are used to lure families to the area, and we see the low-income housing that’s encroaching on the would-be middle-class haven. Images of the booming construction business, the identical rooftops and commuters on the freeway, are used effectively.

The fact is, these people are desperate to leave Antelope Valley.

It would be interesting to learn exactly how much footage was shot in the making of the genuinely anthropological video. While it conveys more information than any TV news report or newsmagazine segment,it seems too short to stand on its own as an academic thesis.

The carefully edited piece often has the visual quality of home movies, which is clearly the desired effect. “Home Economics” is a pure use of the docu format and a model of how to evoke the general from the particular.

P.O.V. Home Economics

(Tues. (18), 10-11 p.m., PBS)

Production: Videotaped in Antelope Valley by Jenny Cool in association with the Center for Visual Anthropology at the University of Southern California Dept. of Anthropology. Executive producers , Ellen Schneider, Marc N. Weiss; producer/director/camera/editor/sound, Cool; music, Debbie Fox, Charles Fulton, Peter Getty. #With: Kelly Killen, Kaury Killen, Vicky Ivanov, Harmoni Hutton. Anthropologist-filmmaker Jenny Cool's master's thesis is a depressing video portrait of contemporary suburbia. Yet the "P.O.V." documentary is less about a particular place -- the communities of Lancaster and Palmdale in the Antelope Valley -- than about a class of women and their values and aspirations. Conversations (recorded in 1993) with two women and their teen daughters are interspersed with shots of their environs, a sea of tract houses and developments in the desert.

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