Sheena McFarland, The Salt Lake Tribune

The Sundance documentary "Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon" had a theater full of high school students thinking about their world early Monday.

The film documents the conflict between the Philomath School District and the Clemens Foundation, which decided to stop providing scholarships for Philomath High School graduates after conservative foundation leaders decided the school district was becoming too liberal.

"I thought a documentary would be boring, but this brought up a lot of family values and the ideas presented really applied to Utah a lot," said Matt Damon, a senior at Box Elder High School in Brigham City.

Other students said the documentary draws attention to differing political ideologies.

"There is a big change coming to our society. Our last two elections were so close, and there has been so much arguing between liberals and conservatives that the change could go either way," said Jeff Leach, a Box Elder senior.

Leach liked the documentary format.

"Documentaries take more time on topics that are otherwise ignored," he said.

Students from Box Elder and American Fork high schools attended the morning screening as part of the Sundance Institute's High School Screening Program to show students films they wouldn't normally see.

"We want to show you the different ways films can be used and the different messages films can send," said Sundance's Melinda Nebeker.

Several students, such as Box Elder senior Trista Ross, had never seen a Sundance film.

"I loved the film. I thought it was cool. I want to see more films from Sundance," she said.

That's what filmmaker Peter Richardson wanted to hear. He also hopes high school students who see his film realize they, too, can successfully make films. Richardson, who graduated from Philomath High School in 1998, took two years to film 93 hours of interviews and edit them down to his first feature-length film running at 72 minutes.

He said the film was "relevant" to high schoolers.

"Schools can be the focal point for community angst because parents feel so strongly about their children's education. Any philosophical or ideological change in the community begins in the schools," Richardson said.