Pressure to Please Our Parents

American Moderate was an eye opening film for me because I did not expect to connect with Liz as much as I did. Although, my parents and I do not have big discussions about politics, we do however; disagree on many other important things. Our opinions on romantic relationships, career and education differ mainly because of our different upbringings. My parents lived through communist and post-communism Albania, while I have lived in New York City for most of my life. Although, I often believe I am capable of “doing my own thing”, the older I have gotten and the further away from home I am, I have come to realize that I am heavily influenced by their beliefs and what they think of me and my actions.

Liz is growing up in the age of social media and is influenced by many more different people and in many more different ways than her parents. I too am growing up in the social media age and am surrounded by a number of different beliefs and ways of living than my parents have in their entire lives. Even knowing this, I did not expect Liz to be concerned about the fact that she held different beliefs from her family, because my impression of most American youth is that they adopt the attitude of “doing my own thing”.

Screencap of "American Moderate" by Jared Callahan.

Screencap of “American Moderate” by Jared Callahan.

“Girl Hood”

“Girl Hood” is a documentary film directed and produced by Liz Garbus that follows two teenage girls, Shanae and Megan, over the span of three years, from the time they are in the all-girls juvenile detention center at Thomas J.S Waxter Children’s Center in Laurel, Maryland, to when they are out in the real world. The film opens with the title card, “In the United States, during the last decade, the number of young girls committing violent crimes has more than doubled”. Footage of the two girls is then followed along with more title cards that give insight into the crimes they have committed. At twelve years old Shanae was involved in a fight that ended with Shanae stabbing and killing a young girl. Megan, 16, was also involved in a fight and was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. The primary objective of the film is an exploration into the social implications for the increase of crime committed by young women such as Shanae and Megan. “Girl Hood” was released in 2003 and since then has won many awards. Shanae and Megan’s story has reached a large audience and even caught the attention of talk show host Oprah Winfrey, however, many are critical of its overambitious attempts and lack of direction. “Girl Hood” has been praised for it’s informative content and for raising awareness on a number of issues young people in detention centers face on a daily basis and how their lives lead to a life similar to their parents. On the other hand, “Girl Hood” creates an uncomfortable comparison between Shanae and Megan and their relationship with their mothers. Because the film does not incorporate the juvenile system that fails Megan and others like her, the focus of the film becomes on the distinction between mothers who neglect their children and mothers who do not. One perspective on the film “Girl Hood” is that it is a highly informative documentary film in which the director does a spectacular job revealing to the world the issues young women such as Megan and Shanae face on a daily basis. Issues such as child neglect, failure of the foster care system, alcoholism and drug abuse. The film is also said to be informative regarding the significance of the relationship between mothers and daughters.

An alternate perspective of “Girl Hood” is that it is a film that tries too hard to achieve an ending on a positive note. For example, the filmmaker emphasizes Shanae’s growth since leaving Waxter. Additionally, the film has been criticized for having the drama move the film along. For example, once the girls are out of Waxter, we see Shanae is doing well in school and even goes to her prom. The film then changes focus on Megan and her deteriorating relationship with her mother. After Megan and her mother have falling out and are no longer speaking, the film again shifts focus to Shanae, who has now just lost her mother to heart failure. Additionally, the film has also been criticized for ignoring the workers at Waxter. The relationship between staff and the young women at Waxter is for the most part warm and friendly. The relationship between staff and the young girls is also essential to how the girls grow and move forward with their lives. However, the film ignores their concerns regarding the young girls and regarding the system.

The film is misleading from the beginning when the opening title card introduces the audience to the fact that the number of crimes committed by young women has risen. One assumes that this is a documentary film exploring possible reasons for this statistic. However, this is never again mentioned in the film or why it is significant in relation to Shanae and Megan’s story. Additionally, once the girls are out in the real world, their lives change drastically. Megan’s relationship with her mother worsens and her relationship with her foster mother is nonexistent. Shanae returns home to a supportive mother and father and is able to come to terms with the responsibility of her actions. She even admits feeling remorse for having taken someone’s life, unlike before when she said her victim was the lucky one. Additionally, Shanae is able to go back to school and even attend prom. Megan’s life after juvenile detention against the backdrop of Shanae’s life creates a comparison between the two girls and their circumstances. It places great significance on the relationship between mothers and daughters/parental figures as the driving force for the behavior or misbehavior of youth. Although, to some extent the relationship between children and parents is important, there are other factors that play into the reason Megan is unsuccessful outside the detention center. One very important factor is the juvenile system responsible for failing Megan. The film fails to look into the system and why it has failed girls like Megan who do not have a supporting family to welcome them back into society. The film simply shows the audience the tangible, present and convenient reasons for Megan’s unsuccessful re-integration back to society, her relationship with her mother. As a result this creates a polarization between Megan and Shanae’s lives. The film has many positive attributes, such as it is raw and informative; however, it lacks depth when it comes to looking deeper into the juvenile system, the statistics in opening title card and the relevance of this statistic to Shanae and Megan. Nevertheless, it is an import

Imba Means Sing

One strategy the filmmakers used to make “Imba Means Sing” a documentary film for young audiences was to allow the students of the African Children’s Choir tell their story instead of a narrator or an adult do so instead. Additionally, the film limited the amount of adult screen time and instead included activities such as card making and visiting new places, which are more relatable to children than having an adult speak about such activities and events.

One pattern I noticed throughout the film, was that before each performance, their teacher, Mark, would always remind the students that the audience has paid to come see them perform. This acted as a reminder for why the children, as individuals and as a group, were performing with the African Children’s Choir and therefore highlighting the transactional aspect of the experience of the choir and the significance of sponsors.

African Children’s Choir Featured in Documentary ‘Imba Means Sing’

Jean Rouch: Chronicle of A Summer

Foundational Filmmaker: Jean Rouch (Les Mâitres Fous) (Chronicle of a Summer)

Jean Rouch is a filmmaker and anthropologist considered to be the father of ethnofiction. Ethnofiction is a blend of documentary film and fiction in which ethnography is combined in the staging of reality. Natives play their social roles as fictional characters of a fictional film. Rouch’s ethnofiction films explore themes of colonialism and racism.

Jean Rouch is also considered a pioneer of cinema vérité and visual anthropology. Cinema vérité is style of documentary filmmaking in which the filmmaker relays little to no information about the images s/he has captured. The goal of cinema vérité is to capture reality as it is without any censoring or explanations. In cinema vérité, the camera’s presence is always acknowledged.

Jean Rouch’s work mainly took place in Niger, where he filmed possession rituals, social life, migration and the changes that took place from colonialism to independence to the present day. Rouch worked from 1967 to 1974 to produce a series of films documenting the seven-year cycle of the Dogon Sigui rituals that occurs every 60 years.

Rouch is best known for the documentary film Chronicle of a Summer, which he worked with French sociologist Edgar Morin. The film offers a perspective in the way ordinary individuals were navigating their lives during a particularly complicated time in French history.

Thoughts on “The Crossing”.

After reading the article, I had more questions than answers.

The one question that kept coming to mind was; has anyone ever returned back to his country? And if so, what are the social implications of their returns? Are they ostracized and abandoned by their families? Do they have a family to go back to? How are the younger siblings of these boys surviving, unless they are already dead or have run away themselves?

Other questions that come to mind are, how did the writer of this article (Dr. Alexander), come to interact with these boys? What is her story and how did she leave and enter the camps? How long was she there for? Through what means was she able to enter? What did it take for her to leave? What privileges and advantages of mobility did Dr. Alexander have, besides being an American citizen that the boys did not have? What are the implications, disadvantages, advantages of a woman, and a foreign white woman, living amongst young boys and men in such conditions? Although, incorporating some of these answers in the article may take away from the focus of Bambino’s story, I think it is important for the writer to briefly discuss her positionality and how the relationship changed as the boys revealed their stories to the author.