I AM A GIRL. Documentary film directed by Rebecca Barry. Rated M (Mature themes). 88 minutes.
I Am a Girl is a brief documentary focusing on six young women in different countries around the world. The director, Rebecca Barry went with her team photographing the different countries and the countrysides with great beauty, but sometimes they are sometimes sinister as in Cambodia, sometimes, as in Sydney, very ordinary.
The six girls chosen came from the United States, Afghanistan, Australia, Cameroon, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. Some of the girls are still at school. Some did not have the opportunity to study, although the girl from Afghanistan is making a somewhat defiant stance in pursuing her education. For several of the girls the issue of self-confidence is very important, the African American girl from New York City moving out into the world, the young girl in Sydney still at school but having suffered from bipolar disorder and depression.
Sexual issues are important for three of the girls. The young girl from Papua New Guinea, from a village, talks frankly about sexual relationships and permissiveness as well as the severity of her father in disapproving of her behaviour, getting pregnant. Ousted from the house, she goes to the city, marries the young man, gives birth in a long sequence and lives for a happy future. It is the same in the Cameroon except that the girl is Muslim, is a virgin at her marriage, receives instructions, quite severe, especially in subservience to the husband, in preparation for marriage. The ceremonies themselves are very colourful and the girl wants to stay married ‘till death do us part’.
The hardest life is that of the girl in Cambodia. At age 12, her virginity was put on sale and sold for $400 with the man raping her, then offering $100 a month for her to be his mistress. Her mother agrees but asks for an extra $10.00 per month. The mother is poor, dependent on her daughter, not preventing her from living as a prostitute. The young girl herself has a daughter, continually clashes with her mother and her father. With her only prospects being to remain at home as a prostitute or to leave home, she leaves to find a new life.
The film does not aim to find definite conclusions. Rather, it is a series of portraits, a cinema essay focusing on six young women to highlight some of the problems for women in the 21st century, some of the oppression, many of the hopes.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out October 3 2013.