Kimberlee Bassford, who wrote and directed Cheerleader, has a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. It shows. In less than half an hour, Bassford manages to cram in an enormous amount of information. She talks about the history of cheerleading, pros and cons of various aspects of cheerleading, and follows a team of young girls as they try for a national title. Everything fits together nicely, which is undoubtedly due to her background.

Many short documentary filmmakers are film students, not journalism students. Bassford has the discipline to relay all relevant information. And she was a cheerleader in high school. She doesn't embellish much artistically, but that is not the point of this film. Bassford tracks the Tigers, a young team from Los Gatos, California. Most are relatively new to cheerleading, but their chances of advancing are good.

As the Tigers work their way up through the ranks, Bassford intersperses all of the background information that makes Cheerleader so interesting. Most importantly, she examines both sides of every potential controversy. Is cheerleading for girls good for self-esteem or an outdated, sexist relic? Are risque moves cute or dangerous? Then she moves into a highly information section on the history, and how cheerleading began as an all-male pastime (Jimmy Stewart and George Bush are ex-cheerleaders) and then shifted to predominantly female. Bassford does a good job with the research, and has some great archival photographs and clips. If this is what she did with a short documentary, it would be great to see what she could do with an additional hour.

Gerf Rates It: Pretty Good.
24 minutes, Not Rated but would probably be a PG, or maybe a G.