Tension in detention
Liz Garbus's documentary "Girlhood" about two girls behind bars in Maryland combines a compassionate eye with a sense of drama you would expect from fiction.
By LESLIE (HOBAN) BLAKE
Liz Garbus ("The Farm: Angola," "The Nazi Officer's Wife") adds wayward teen-age girls to her ever-expanding list of docu subjects.
All of Liz Garbus' docs show the same dedication to telling a story that we've quickly come to expect from her. From prisons and their inmates ("Final Judgement: The Execution of Antonio James" and "The Execution of Wanda Jean") to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust ("The Nazi Officer's Wife"), Garbus has also looked into the lives of children with "A Boy's Life" and her latest, "Girlhood."
|Directed by: Liz Garbus.|
Produced by: Liz Garbus, Rory Kennedy.
Featuring: Shanae Owens, Megan Jensen.
Cinematography: Tony Hardmon.
Related links: Official site
While the look of her docs may change with each subject, Garbus' method is always the same. If she cares about a subject, she wants us to care and we do. This time we care about two young girls on the verge of womanhood, who are locked up in Waxter, a Baltimore detention center. Garbus follows them for almost four years and records their fight against the odds.
Shanae Owens, a young black girl, comes from a home where although she had loving and concerned parents and a doting live-in grandmother, she still ran with the wrong crowd and at the age of 11 managed to stab a friend to death with a box cutter. "Girlhood" introduces her at Waxter two years later where she is a pretty, smart and popular inmate, who is in denial about responsibilty for her crime.|
At the same time, the film also tracks Megan Jensen, an incorrigible angry, foul-mouthed bi-racial young girl whose single mother is herself serving time in prison on charges stemming from drug abuse and prostitution. Megan's at Waxter after running away from several foster homes. The societal deck would seem to be stacked from the start towards Shanae, who is well spoken and almost demure (given her circumstances and surroundings), and against Megan, who is practically a living stereotype of the kind of girl one imagines locked up in a detention center.
It's part of Garbus' real talent that she can upend our expectations even though, with a documentary it's never really possible to predict the way it will end. As with the recent "Sister Helen," an unexpected death in "Girlhood" surprises all of us, including the filmmaker. So we follow both girls and the subtext of their lives nature vs nurture as each grows and changes in ways we could not have predicted. To tell more of their stories would truly spoil the dramatic impact of "Girlhood."
Next I hope someone comes along and makes "Being Liz Garbus" that's a documentary that would prove fascinating, given her ever-widening range of interests.
|NOVEMBER 2, 2003|
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Reader comments on Girlhood:
Amazing from Scheherazade, Feb 2, 2004
yoyo from mobtown, Aug 27, 2004
girl hood from christopher wade, Sep 24, 2004
Hi. from Grecia, Sep 24, 2004
Shanae from Rich, Sep 24, 2004
Hi from Nancy, Nov 24, 2004
moved from jo beth gleason, Jan 7, 2005
megan from jo beth gleason, Jan 7, 2005
Megan from Heather, Apr 28, 2005
Megan from Alicia, Aug 7, 2005
Update from Doesn't Matter, Nov 13, 2008
Yo from Redz , Feb 12, 2009
You Go! from Officer in California, Apr 15, 2009
Megan from Miranda Gonzales, Feb 4, 2012
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