Citizen Jane’s ‘Secret Lives of Girls’ focuses on perspective, politics

The program featured shorts from girls under the age of 18 and a Q&A with two directors after the screenings.

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This review contains spoilers for the short films “Honey, Baby, Doll,” “Fear No Evil,” “Euphoria,” “I Am the Only One,” “100% Cotton,” “Spiral,” “The Ways We Say Goodbye,” “Seasons,” “Reflect,” “The Night I Lost My Favorite Jacket,” “How You See Us” and “Grab Him By The —.”

“Secret Lives of Girls,” a yearly shorts program held by the Citizen Jane Film Festival, focuses on films created by young girls around the country. This is my favorite shorts program that the festival holds because it shows young people’s potential, and the Q&A after the screening allows the audience to ask questions regarding the making of these shorts, which are typically low-budget.

This year, the collection showcased 12 different short films. All of the films ranged from music video-style to experimental to comedy. What really brought these films together, however, was their use of perspective.

The first short during the program was “Honey, Baby, Doll,” which visualized the way young women are objectified through the use of Barbie dolls and googly eyes. As the short progresses, more and more googly eyes are glued to the Barbie as it is forced to look at itself in a mirror.

“Fear No Evil” showed a young woman kidnapped and drugged by a Catholic priest. She wakes up inside a house’s wall and is nailed in the head after the priest cites scripture with the words, “Fear no evil.” While it appeared to be a religious commentary, the lack of context brought questions by the audience at the end of the screening.

“Euphoria,” a music video created for singer Will Jordan and directed by Wynter Rhys, showed a man kidnapped and tied to a chair by women wearing elaborate dresses made of rope. As he sits in his chair, his fan base invades him and kidnaps his daughter.

“I Am The Only One” was a touching, short documentary detailing the relationship between director Aicha Cherif and her mother. Cherif was sent to live with her grandparents in New York City when she was little, escaping female genital mutilation in Guinea. The documentary delves into the emotional relationship between a curious daughter and an absent mother, and was one of my favorite shorts this year because of the raw emotion between the two.

The fifth short, “100% Cotton,” showed the loving relationship between a mother and son, including his tactics of sticking his tag out of his shirt to catch the attention of a girl in school. This was another favorite of mine, temporarily bringing up the mood before the more serious “Spiral” followed.

The entire first half of “Spiral,” submitted by the San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers: The Film Workshop, was a video that was played twice — first in backwards motion and then in forwards motion. The first half made the audience believe that a young girl was being abused by her father. However, when played back, you realize it was actually her alcoholic mother who frames the young girl’s father.

“The Ways We Say Goodbye” focused on a bittersweet moment between a mother and her son, showing the ways we cope with death.

“Seasons” was an upbeat short, showing the ups and downs and cyclical aspects of relationships through seasonal narratives.

“Reflect” was another favorite of mine because of the use of perspective to shed light on a racial issue. Throughout the short, a white boy is bullied by his classmates and is asked questions such as, “Is this your real hair?” At the very end, we realize that the director changed perspectives to a black girl to show the ways in which we perceive racial attitudes differently. This was the most insightful short because of its simple production with a deeper message.

“The Night I Lost My Favorite Jacket,” created by Jenna Krumerman, was my favorite short in terms of production. The entire film is made with hand-drawn animations and showed a young girl hanging out with impressionable older students who give her drugs and alcohol. One scene, which is ignored during the rest of the short, lightly touches on rape culture in America by noting that some are often afraid to report assaults.

“How You See Us” and “Grab Him By The —” were both political commentaries that focused on the 2016 scandal involving President Trump and the leaking of an Access Hollywood tape where Trump says that he grabbed a woman “by her pussy.” “How You See Us,” a music video-style short created by Susannah Brazell-Joffe, featured girls dancing in moody lighting and wiping glitter off their faces, while “Grab Him By The —” turned the conversation by creating a different world where men are grabbed by their penises by those who are romantically interested in them.

“Secret Lives of Girls” continues to be my favorite shorts program at Citizen Jane because of their willingness to let younger women explore and present their creative ideas as they process certain aspects of their lives and search for their own voice. All of the films expressed a raw emotion that these young filmmakers transformed into something beautiful.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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