Ten9Eight ‘Documents’ Disadvantaged Youths’ Capitalist Dreams


Entrepeneurship or death: That’s the blunt choice presented to the ever-euphemistic “disadvantaged youth” by Ten9Eight. Get rich (by pursuing your capitalistic goals and parlaying them into a meticulously detailed business plan) or die tryin’ (felled by drugs, poverty, et al.). Mary Mazzio’s “documentary” focuses on competitors in the annual Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship competition, where the kids present their prospectuses for real businesses, advancing from regional rounds to an NYC shootout for $10,000. “Documentary,” though, deserves its scare-quotes; the whole movie is funded by the NFTE and its backers. This relentlessly upbeat paean to capitalism as the sole path to the American Dream comes at a time when the values of unfettered capitalism are once more up for debate. No blame, to be clear, can be assigned to the subjects: uniformly diligent and lovable teens sincerely promoting businesses they believe in. But the movie is still a glorified informercial, complete with enough blandly upbeat guitar-cues to power all 22 seasons of Real World intros. The kids are too vibrant to be flattened, but Mazzio gives it a go anyway with banal interviews and Sears-photography montages. This may be an admirable competition, but that doesn’t make this movie less self-serving.