Teenage Girls’ Documentary Project
This intimate documentary follows the lives of five teenage girls from the New Orleans area during five years of their lives, beginning around the time they are finishing middle school or starting high school. While the director Julie Gustafson is making a film about the young women’s lives, the five women are also learning how to make videos as part of the Teenage Girls’ Documentary Project, and are shooting and editing their own short videos. Throughout the documentary the short films made by the young women, in the form mostly of interviews or video essays, are interwoven into the narrative. This technique allows Gustafson to construct the narrative around issues each of the girls’ are dealing with in their lives, but the viewer also gets to actually see how the girls themselves wish to visually represent their lives and the things they are struggling with on a daily basis.
The five teenage girls are from very different backgrounds, both socioeconmically and culturally. The title of the documentary is taken from the housing projects, Desire, where two of the young women featured, live. One of the other young girls is from the working-class suburb of Belle Chase, while the other two seem to be quite privileged and live in the city of New Orleans. Issues of being a young mother, sexual orientation, sexuality, eating disorders, family expectations, poverty, being a first generation immigrant and romantic relationships, are all featured in the documentary.
The documentary does not desire to do more than show and share these young women’s lives. Even though they all live in New Orleans, their struggles are all so different, yet are united by the common thread of seeking to feel happy and fulfilled in their lives as they get older. During the five years that viewers follow the participants, the girls face incredible changes as they transition from girls to women (with some of the having to “become” women a lot earlier than others, having to live on their own, take care of their children and be completely responsible for themselves, while other continue to live at home after they graduate from high school). Gustafson seems to want to share with viewers the deep affection she has for all five women, and the attachment she had after spending five years following and also teaching these young women.
References: Women Make Movies: http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c676.shtml