Documentary follows AHS class across 50 years

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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What started as just a fun project at a 20-year class reunion has now flourished into a documentary film whose director hopes shines a light on what time in high school was all about.

In what she terms as “… the longest development of a documentary film in history,” Austin class of 1974 alum Barbara Bentree is putting together a piece of archival history that tells a singular story through the years.

“You see how people’s priorities change over the years,” Bentree said. “It’s kind of a re-creation of high school in some ways. It’s just really lovely to watch the evolution of everybody.”

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“Should You Go?” will be shown during the class’s 50 year reunion at 2 p.m. on Sept. 14, at the Paramount Theatre.

“Even if you didn’t graduate in our class there are a lot of parallels, a lot of interest,” she said. “I think there are going to be people in classes to either side of our class there.”

The genesis of the project started at the 20-year anniversary in 1994 and consisted of Bentree simply using a high-eight camera to film classmates answering an assortment of questions. It continued at the 40-year reunion in 2014 where she found some of the same people from 1994 and interviewed them again.

This was before Bentree was the filmmaker she is today, but the project soon began to take over and in October of last year, Bentree took a trip to Minneapolis to conduct a third round of interviews.

She said that’s been an interesting concept to pursue from start to finish because of the reflection the project has of her class and the period in which they grew up in.

“I think it’s a fascinating thing,” Bentree said. “It’s been very heartwarming and surprising in some ways. “I think we grew up in a really unique time — the late 50s, 60s and early 70s. Austin was booming.”

While it might be easy for someone looking in from the outside that this would be a project for those in her class, Bentree said that she wanted to turn it into something different. Something that could strike a chord with everyone.

“As a filmmaker, I’m trying to find some universal truth,” she said. “It’s sort of the film I make all the time. Something broader than the narrow subject and something everybody can relate to.”

She also noted that reunions can be a call back to a time before social media. Bentree explains that they can be a way to physically connect rather than rely on social media to maintain those connections.

While at the same time, it’s another way to keep memories alive for those who went to school at that time. She uses music as an example of this.

“You hear that song and it’s just this flood of memories and feelings about that time period and what you were going through,” Bentree said. “High school was a really important time. It kind of forms who you are.”

Branching from that, Bentree said there is more than enough for those in her class and outside of it to look at and realize how important those years were.

At the same time, going to reunions has solidified what her class truly meant to her, regardless of how close she was to students during that time.

“Going to reunions has just opened up this whole group of people to me and this new community of people for me to meet that was still connected to,” she said. “Now people are getting together.”

Her other hope for this movie is that people from her class that have maybe fallen out of contact with the rest of the class will get the chance to know about and see the movie and to take part in the same experience as her classmates, as well as come to the reunion itself, guided by the Reunion Committee led by Connie and Rick Brekke and Greg Thorsheim.

And with a weekend filled with activities, Bentree hopes that this movie will simply augment a chance to make more memories.

“I think it’s going to be highly entertaining. When do you get to see a movie about your hometown?” Bentree said. “It’s very inspiring, very funny. The fact we’re doing it at the Paramount Theatre — it’s incredibly nostalgic to be there.”