In Girls Like Us, filmmakers Jane Wagner and Tina DiFeliciantonio explore the perspective of a segment of our society that is rarely given its own voice: teenage girls. Through the experiences of a group of young women, the film examines the turning point in life when teens struggle to define and articulate their sexual identity against the pressures and standards imposed by parents, boyfriends, and society. Through these complex portrayals, Girls Like Us reveals how class, sexism, and violence impact dreams and expectations.
Filmed over four years in a predominantly working-class neighborhood in South Philadelphia, the film follows an ethnically diverse group of teenage girls: Lisa, who is Italian-American, attends Catholic high school; Anna, who is first-generation Vietnamese-American, goes to a magnet school: De’Yona, who is African-American, is enrolled in a performing-arts high school; and Raelene, at age fourteen, has left school to raise her baby. As these young women grow from fourteen to eighteen, the filmmakers visit them each year to capture a range of intimate moments: conversations with friends, boyfriends, parents, and grandparents; visits to church, to school, to the pregnancy clinic. All unfold before a fluid handheld camera; all point to the way the daily conflicts they experience shape their actions and self-perceptions.
Although the film portrays the fragility of adolescence and the ways these young women are vulnerable to external pressures, Girls Like Us also underlines the ways they empower themselves. All of the young women demonstrate a self-awareness that is at times disarming. With an honest and entertaining approach, Girls Like Us celebrates the wisdom and strength of these young women as they define their sexuality, identities, and futures.
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