Live From SXSW's Screening Room


D: Liz Garbus.

Documentary Feature Competition, U.S. Premiere There are moments of unexpected humor, as when a teacher lectures about "effectiveness" with diagrams of squeaky-clean square kids straight out of the 1950s, but the real thrust of this documentary is its unsparing candor. Shanae, convicted of murder after a fight, celebrates her 13th birthday inside the juvenile justice system. Fellow inmate Megan is a sloe-eyed, cocksure charmer, convicted of assault after her mother, a heroin-addicted prostitute, was incarcerated. As each makes her way back to the streets of East Baltimore, families reunite, emotional scars begin to heal, and new challenges arise. This production is remarkably -- at times painfully -- frank, evincing a tremendous amount of trust placed in Garbus (The Farm: Angola, USA) by her families. To her credit, Garbus doesn't tie things up too neatly, which may unnerve some viewers. The production values are also a bit rough, and Garbus probably spends too much screen time behind bars. Yet the story is engrossing and honest enough to elevate girlhood well above these shortcomings. (girlhood won the Jury Award for Best Documentary.) (Alamo, 3/15, 4:15pm)

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