Summercamp! Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price

For those who’ve never had the sleep away camp experience, Summercamp! might just be the most annoying film ever. Because really, while no doubt a great subject for a documentary, and one of undeniable nostalgic worth to some, you need to wrangle some extremely rad kids in order to properly convey the spirit of all that rah-rah-rah-ing for the otherwise unacquainted. Unfortunately, the kids here just aren’t rad enough. A joint effort from the makers of American Movie and the Flaming Lips doc Fearless Freaks, Summercamp! follows a group of kids aged six to 15 through a session at a super-geeky camp in Wisconsin called Swift Nature Camp. The kids are mostly outcasts (natch, they love nature) sent to camp to make the social connections they're incapable of making at home. At camp, they get girlfriends/boyfriends, beat the shit out of each other and generally thrive on one another’s geekery. What’s interesting is that it’s the biggest loners that end up carrying the narrative, only because they’re the ones that latch onto the filmmakers for lack of anyone else that will listen. Love it or hate it, summer camp is a universe onto itself, and one with a complex social structure that is obviously worth exploring (with the potential to be universally interesting). Unfortunately, there isn’t much substance here. Rants by counsellors on important issues like overmedication (Ritalin and other anti-psychotics sedate an alarming amount of happy campers each day) and counsellor burnout are quickly tossed aside for more capture the flag. Other than a few genuinely sweet moments that are more due to the luck of filming children than a testament to the filmmakers’ abilities, the footage doesn’t hasn’t been given the proper treatment and at times, seems arbitrarily thrown together. While a worthy effort, Summercamp! rarely manages to get past the surface of its topic and isn’t the coming of age movie it desires to be. Luckily, a soundtrack by the Flaming Lips makes up for everything. (Roadside Cinema, LLC)