If You Build It

In fall 2010 the school superintendent of Bertie County, North Carolina, invited designer Emily Pilloton and architect Matt Miller to teach a high school class, with the goal of inspiring students to create structures that would benefit the economically depressed community. This documentary by Patrick Creadon (Wordplay, I.O.U.S.A.) charts the students’ development over the course of a year and paints a sympathetic portrait of Pilloton and Miller, who ended up teaching the class for free when the school board threatened to cut the program. The story is inherently uplifting, which makes Creadon’s sentimental approach feel excessive and a little patronizing.