Mike and Joe grew up in opposite parts of the Twin Cities, but they have had something painful in common. Their frightening behavior has brought them to the attention of the system as “at risk” boys. But Mike and Joe are actually part of a rapidly growing population of boys who are either challenged, hurting, or “failing” in their lives. There is an emotional and psychological crisis evident in American boys and men, which is finally being noticed in the mainstream because of the increasing violence and poor school performance of boys. Statistics show that our boys and men are succeeding less well academically, socially, and emotionally, plus have higher numbers of stress-induced health episodes, criminal episodes, and suicide attempts. Yet public discussion has not gone far enough in that it only asks how to get boys functioning again. What is it actually like to live the life of a teenage boy in our America?
Our film follows the story of 16-year-old Mike through his depression and multiple suicide attempts, plus 17-year-old Joe through his addictions and destructive violence. As we’ve gone into their families and lives, we’ve found that all the schooling techniques, counseling and medication can only point to one thing missing that might really help them to come alive: connecting with a mature adult male who becomes an active and supportive part of their lives. We hope to chart their lost-and- found journey to authentic manhood through some unique people, programs, and rituals that are helping them on their journey.
The Boys to Men mentoring program, (BTM), is a major focus, including an insiders peek into a BTM “Rites of Passage Adventure” (ROPA) Weekend. We follow the transformation of two mentors through the stories of their mentoring service. We search for the rebirth of a vibrant male culture by talking with and seeing older men who’ve gone through similar mentoring or rites of passage in their lives. We enlist experts in the fields of child development, media, and the men’s movement to help interpret what we see.
Our experts examine healing the “Boy Crisis” via the renewal of male culture. With Michael Gurian, we learn how men’s changing work and family roles have greatly reduced their presence in boy’s lives. With the help of Dr. David Walsh of the Center for Media and the Family, we hear about the systematic socialization of boys into self-destructive roles. With renowned parenting expert Dr. Barbara Coloroso we learn how we can reverse the increasingly faulty “control logic” that has skewed generations of parents. But the center of our focus is on growing communities founded on Mentoring, rites of passage, and becoming a fully functioning person. We will meet these unusual men and boys who are learning how to be “full men” inside of a world that is always pushing them to lives focused on maintaining images and acquiring toys.
What Boys Learn
Most boys believe they must find some role or mask to hide behind to get the safety of functional acceptance with their peers. These patterns are examples of dysfunctional mindsets and cultural norms, which are now being transmitted with increasing frequency. Thus we seem to be raising fewer mature kids and fewer mature parents within our “sibling society.” Our male culture reflects the larger culture in that it is fragmented and promotes a dysfunctional vision of Manhood and society.
What is Learned through Rites of Passage?
To achieve authentic manhood, men and boys must first learn nurture and validate themselves from the inside so that they can truly accept that they are good enough. But usually boys and men will need unconditional acceptance from the outside before they can incorporate that knowing into their core. The first step into this deeper world is learning and practicing emotional awareness. Men and boys need to know their own feelings and intuitions. Next comes a process of “uncovering” the soul from disabling family and cultural baggage. Here is where men and boys identify the masks they wear as well as the costs these masks have had. Now they have a chance to see themselves and their unique gifts in a deep way. With this clarity they can begin to get a more complex understanding of how the larger culture works, and how to integrate their gifts into the new world they see. This leaves them free and empowered to give services to society that spring naturally from honoring their own creative calls. They can balance this with a realistic understanding of limitations and responsibilities.
Our film finds cultural innovators already inventing new life ways and alternative visions in intergenerational healing communities. This culture of love, attention, listening, respect, validation, role models, guidance, and support that boys and men need can be “jump started” through mentoring and rites of passage delivered in healthy collaborative communities. We study the Boys to Men organization as an example of a circle, which validates everyone, idealizes personal & social responsibility, and nurtures the nature of each. By following Mike, Joe, and their mentors, we explore the possibility of a more mature society, which allows boys and men the maximum opportunity to fully actualize themselves while contributing to community. As men do their own healing they become ready and willing to mentor boys. Mentors encourage boys to serve the community first as a way of achieving their own wholeness.
Two of the principal collaborators, Charlie Borden and Mike Obsatz, are community organizers and mentors who have been a part of developing and delivering programs, rituals, and mentoring for men and boys in their communities. By collaborating with filmmaker Kevin Obsatz we captured a story of courageous men and boys through close examination of their healing communities. The documentary should interest general audiences as well as men’s movement enthusiasts, social workers, and mentoring communities. The DVD has sections structured uniquely to move and support mentoring communities, educators and men’s circles. Besides touching hearts, the documentary's obvious agenda is to inspire viewers to mentor or support mentoring.
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