I Am a Girl

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
I Am a Girl Movie Poster Image
Intense, eye-opening docu about growing up around the world.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes include learning who you are and being true to yourself. No matter what other people may tell them, the girls here are learning that they'll eventually be responsible for their own lives, even if circumstances can make it difficult for them to call the shots for now.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The six featured girls must learn who they really are and how they can be true to themselves. Some must contend with friends or family members who offer advice that's both uplifting and self-serving, a complicated combination that's even more difficult for young people to process when it comes from those who are close to them.

Violence

Some of the girls describe harrowing experiences, including violent attacks, attempted suicide, and stories about family members who've been killed. Their matter-of-fact tones as they recount these terrible events makes their stories even more chilling.

Sex

Some of the girls, still in their teens, are pregnant or already have babies, and they discuss the impact that having children so young has had upon their lives and their families. One of the girls talks frankly about her life as a prostitute.

Language
Consumerism

A few scenes show people with various consumer goods, including a Lenovo laptop computer and an iPhone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The girls sometimes talk about encounters, occasionally violent ones, with drunken men.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am a Girl is a moving documentary about six teenage girls from different parts of the world, all on the cusp of adulthood. They face a broad range of difficulties, including depression, unplanned pregnancy, disapproving parents, and more. One even works as a teenage prostitute and was forced to sell her baby. There's plenty of frank talk about sex, violence, and family disputes that may be too intense for younger teens. But older teens and adults could learn a lot about the female experience from this film, which also underlines the importance of taking responsibility and being true to yourself. (Note: While the film is not currently widely distributed, it is available through the distributors' website.)

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What's the story?

Six girls from six different countries are the focus of I AM A GIRL, a documentary that examines what it means to be a young woman in a world largely run by men. The girls, who range in age from 16 to 19, have much in common, though their lives are very different. The most obvious contrast is between the two from developed nations -- Katie from Australia and Breani from the United States -- and the other four, who live in much different circumstances in Asia and Africa. Certainly Katie and Breani have more comfortable lives than Aziza, who lives in Afghanistan; Manu, who's about to give birth in Papua New Guinea; Habiba, a teen bride in Cameroon; and Kimsey, a Cambodian prostitute. But what they all share is the struggle to define themselves, sometimes with support from -- and sometimes despite -- their families. It becomes clear that while each must overcome different hurdles, they're all fighting a similar fight for the right to not to be defined by men.

Is it any good?

I Am a Girl is unforgettable and deeply moving, and not just because many of its subjects share such personal, often heartbreaking stories. It's easy to feel immediate compassion for Kimsey, whose life full of horrors includes selling her virginity at 12, or Manu, who was sent away by her father when she got pregnant. By contrast, Katie and Breani appear to have comparatively less tumult in their lives.

But as the movie continues, viewers learn that they, too, have had challenges -- including depression, attempted suicide, and an absent father. That's what makes this documentary so profound: It reveals how, no matter where you're from, growing up as a girl has its unique challenges. Director Rebecca Barry has stitched together a narrative both wrenching and uplifting. For despite these difficulties, the stories also show the girls' shared sense of optimism and the belief that good things can and will happen to them. We certainly hope so.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the girls in the movie. How do their experiences differ from yours? What do you have in common? What do you think filmmakers might include in a documentary about your life?

  • How did the girls' stories affect you -- especially the parts about depression, prostitution, exploitation, and being abandoned by family members?

  • What's the movie's ultimate message? What do you think it's hoping to accomplish?

Movie details

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