"I'm not black, I'm not white, not foreign...just different in the mind, different brains, that's all..." -Billy
This award-winning feature paints a sensitive and humorous vérité portrait of an iconoclastic 15-year-old outsider growing up in small-town Maine. In many ways, Billy is like other teenage boys - he's into heavy metal and martial arts, is desperate to find a girlfriend, and aspires to a career as an actor and rock star. Yet Billy is unique. His troubled past and ongoing behavioral issues have left him marked, yet he is unapologetic about his personality and refuses to be victimized, creating his own techniques to help him survive in an environment of conformity and prejudice. Billy is funny, sharp, strangely wise for his age, and remarkably candid. We witness life from his perspective - having intimate conversations with his mother, being bullied at school, fantasizing about becoming a superhero. We also experience the exhilarating pangs of first love as Billy pursues Heather, a shy 16-year-old waitress.
Billy the Kid is an intimate glimpse into the life of a teen named Billy, who's behavioral issues have left him at the margins of his small-town Maine high school. The film shows Billy at home with his mother and half-brother, and at school, where he tries to engage with other kids, as well as biking around town and playing video games. Billy says, "I know I'm unique. I don't let it go to my head though. [I'm] just someone who was born different from others."
Director/producer Jennifer Vendetti discovered Billy in a rural Maine high school while casting real kids for extras in Carter Smith's short film BUGCRUSH (a 2006 Sundance Short Film Winner). After introducing herself to Billy, recalls Venditti, "I was both awed and unnerved by his personality. I was mesmerized by his candor and his disregard for any of the usual conversational boundaries. But when I asked teachers about him, they used phrases like 'emotional disabilities' ... and 'special learning environment.'" Other students seemed either jealous that I was so fascinated by him, or expressed concern that he was so volatile. I cast him in the film I was scouting for, and a few months later, I returned to film this portrait of him."
In 2007, Billy the Kid won Best Documentary Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Melbourne Film Festival, and Best Documentary at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Among the critical plaudits for the film: "remarkable....utterly original" (Village Voice); "charming, moving and utterly involving" (Filmmaker); "***** Magic!....Don't miss this!" (Time Out NY); "heartbreaking....Watching Billy try to orient himself in a world that makes no sense makes you wonder how any of us ever did" (New York magazine); "Many memorable dramatic films about adolescence have been made over the decades, but few of them can match the impact of Billy the Kid" (The Hollywood Reporter).
About the Filmmaker: Named one of Filmmaker magazine's "Top 25 New Faces in Film," Jennifer Venditti makes her directorial debut with Billy the Kid. Venditti's interest in finding the beauty in everyday heroes has provided her a natural transition into filmmaking from casting. Among the collaborators who have been excited by her singular aesthetic are photographers Richard Avedon and Bruce Weber, and director Spike Jonze.
Credits: Director/Producer: Jennifer Venditti; Producer: Chiemi Karasawa; Executive Producers: Barnet Liberman, Bob Alexander and Lubov Azria; Associate Producers: Jordan Mattos and Danielle Digiacomo; Director of Photography: Donald Cumming; Add'l Photography: Paris Kain; Editor: Michael Levine; Add'l Editor: Enat Sidi; Sound Design: Damian Volpe; Original Score: Christian Zucconi and Guy Blakeslee.