Upon arrival at the official website for the new documentary, Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon, the first thing to catch the eye is a quote praising the film. The quote comes from the US Secretary of Education. Clicking further through, quotes from the Chancellor of New York City Schools and the Executive Director of the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore are highlighted. The one thing all of these people have in common is their affinity for learning and watching students succeed. Though their intentions are noble, they, by all accounts, really have no idea what constitutes a good or bad movie. They merely see the message, an admittedly good one, but fail to recognize the film’s importance, or in this case unimportance. While certainly not a terrible documentary, it is not something I can see garnering much praise upon its release.
Ten9Eight follows a select group of inner city teenagers as they compete on a national scale in the National Youth Entrepreneurship contest where they create their own products and businesses and pitch them to a group of judges who decide which entrepreneur has the most viable business model.
By plucking kids out of inner city areas, the film’s main goal is to show how tough their lives have been and how uplifting it is to see them overcome their hardships and make something of themselves. Some of the teens have dealt with poverty, others with sexual abuse and others with drugs. These stories, however common they may be, are touching and meaningful.
But then comes the story of a girl who created a special kind of dog treat, one that did not contain material known to cause cancer because, whaddya know, her dog died of the disease. Well, boo hoo. It’s a dog. The fact that comparisons are made between this paltry, unimportant “disaster” and afflictions of real life consequence is insulting.
This film feels like it should be an hour long Dateline special, which would boil down to about 42 minutes with commercials, because that’s about as much content as it contains. To make up for the extra time needed to justify its existence as a motion picture, the filmmakers highlight people inconsequential to the entrepreneurship competition, like one teen who didn’t even make the cut to get into the finals, a deaf kid who is in the picture only as a means to manipulatively tug at our heartstrings, and not one, but two former contestants in past competitions, neither of which have any real bearing on the rest of the film. These sections were little more than an artificial lengthening of an already exasperated picture.
Though it is inspiring at times to see underprivileged teens refuse to go down a path of destruction and pursue their own business endeavors, this film simply does not give me much reason to care because it does nothing that countless others haven’t done better.
There are lots of documentaries that detail kids overcoming their hardships that don’t force you to sit through a myriad of sob stories and boring business presentations. I implore you to seek one of those out instead.
Ten9Eight: Shoot for the Moon receives 1.5/5