Summercamp! (2006)

6.5 Overall Score

Fun for former campers

Some swearing by the counsellors probably is unnecessary

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Summercamp!

Studio:  Orchard Pictures/Roadside Cinema

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  September 8, 2006 (Toronto International Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Camp pretty much rocks

For many, camp is an institution. The first time that kids leave home and get away from their parents for an extended period of time. They often have their first “relationships” and deal with homesickness. Now meet the campers of Swift Nature Camp which is located in Wisconsin. The campers range from a chickadee obsessed girl to the camp bully trying to deal with being away from his mother and the other campers’ reaction to him. Hear from the counsellors and what they really think about the kids they’ve been assigned to essentially babysit for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for a three week period.

Summercamp! is a documentary by directors Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price and released in 2006. It has music by the Flaming Lips who Beesley has been associated with and covers one camp stint (three weeks) of the summer.  It was met with mixed reviews and never received a full release but is available on DVD.


The “bully”

The interesting thing about Summercamp! is first, if you attended camp, how little camp has changed, and second getting to see both sides of the coin, from counsellors and campers. It is nice to see some traditions still hold for camp. One camper wants a laptop in the cabin but is reminded that electronics aren’t permitted at the camp. They still sing camp songs and play games that many would probably pass up for “modern” games and a day on the couch.

Seeing the counsellors’ occasional perspective also is fun. When you go to camp you knew that you didn’t like some of the other campers (same is true for school), but it is interesting to hear counsellors voice their frustration and problems with troubled campers. Unfortunately, Summercamp! doesn’t dip into this well enough, but hearing the counsellors give their perspective of the overmedication of children is interesting (despite the fact that most are young and have no medical background). I particularly like how the counsellors try to deal with the camp bully who’s problems range from ADD to just being an outcast.


Camp friends are almost like airplane friends but more intense for bit longer period of time

The kids do a great job in the movie also. I did think it was a little odd that the producers allowed them to say where they live (despite not giving some of the important information). Like most documentaries as they shoot, they eventually find focus, but here since the period is only three weeks that is difficult. The story seems to shift between the bully and the chickadee girl. The chickadee girl is presented as unnaturally obsessed with chickadees until near the end of the trip she reveals when her father was dying of cancer a singing chickadee became one of his last coherent thoughts. It doesn’t seem too manipulative in its presentation since it hurt the girl to reveal this information, but it does make you recast her in a different light.

Summercamp! is enjoyable, but it almost feels like a reality show (there was a reality show called Bug Juice which also covered campers). It is good, but not great and it feels like there is a lot of missed potential. With a little more time and effort, this documentary could have worked better, but is worth a visit.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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