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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Education of Shelby Knox
The Education of Shelby Knox
Docurama // Unrated // September 26, 2006
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 11, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Feeling blue in a red state

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Good documentaries
Likes: Shelby Knox
Dislikes: Abstinence-only sex ed
Hates: Red state politics

The Story So Far...
This isn't the first time this film has been released on DVD. The IronWeed Film Club put it out as their sixth issue, back in May. DVDTalk has a review of that release here.

The Movie
In its most effective bit of propaganda, the film opens with a slate of states on teen pregnancy and STDs, laid over some teens playing suggestively. It's hard to argue with facts displayed so plainly, especially when paired with a fantastic quote about the conservative, Christian, hypocritical view of sex. That it's followed by Shelby Knox's story makes it that much better.

Growing up in the heavily red city of Lubbock, Texas, Knox was indoctrinated into the conservative Republican mindset by the schools, church and parents. Surprisingly, Mom and Dad aren't fire and brimstone neocons, as the script might have gone in a fictional film. Instead, they are just loving products of their environment, who aren't comfortable with change. Thus, a layer of drama is missing, but there's plenty left in the tank.

As Knox picks up the cause of sex education as a high school student, she finds herself at odds with not only her parents, but most of the people of Lubbock, including "Sex Ed," a disturbing youth minister, and Corey, a fellow member on the pro-sex education Lubbock Youth Commission, who is more interested in playing politics than solving issues. Often, she seems to be on her own in the world, and the film portrays this isolation well,

Though much of the movie feels staged, as in the people are playing to the camera instead of being natural, some things prove the old saying that "Truth is stranger than fiction." Watching a school board pray before ruling on sex education or hearing "Sex Ed" proudly claim that Christianity is the most intolerant religion is mind boggling for anyone operation on logic.

Thankfully, the conflict the film is searching for arrives with Fred Phelps gay-bashing crew, but they arrive just in time to give the filmmakers an out when the story didn't deserve one, setting up the ever-handy epilogue. While it does have one exceedingly satisfying wrap-up, the conclusion feels a bit empty, as it leaves viewers without a true resolution. That may just be the point though.

The DVD
A one-disc release, packed in a standard keepcase with a Docurama catalog, this DVD features an animated full-frame main menu, with options to watch the film, select scenes and check out the bonus featurette. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.

The Quality
The full-frame transfer is solid for an indie documentary, with bright color and a good level of detail, though some pixilation is obvious in spots. Overall, it's a decent presentation, without any dirt or damage.

The stereo mix on the audio won't impress any audiophiles in the audience, but it doesn't disappoint either, delivering the dialogue and quality county soundtrack selections with nice clarity.

The Extras
A short featurette collects additional footage of Knox doing her thing and teenage moms talking about their lives. It's got some interesting moments, but nothing better than what's in the actual film.

The Bottom Line
Though the story isn't the most enthralling, as a slice of life of this unique young lady, it's an interesting look at conservative hearts and minds and the pains of politics. The DVD delivers a quality presentation, with a small bonus feature, making this more of a rental option than a purchase, but one you should try to check out.


Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow


*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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