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5 Girls cover image

5 Girls 2001


Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Kartemquin Educational Films and Maria Finitzo
Directed by Maria Finitzo
VHS, color, 113 min.

High School - Adult
Adolescence, African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Gender Studies, Parenting, Psychology, Sociology, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 11/09/2018

Reviewed by Michelle Visser, Norlin Library, University of Colorado at Boulder

5 Girls is an extraordinary film in its ability to depict in an honest and eloquent fashion, the complex lives of adolescent girls. Aptly titled 5 Girls, the video documents three years spent filming five young women from Chicago. The filmmakers’ expertise weaves Haibinh, Amber, Toby, Corrie, and Aisha’s stories together and allows the viewer to unobtrusively accompany them as they go about their lives spending time with family and friends, attending school, participating in sporting events, and going to church, the mall, the hairdresser, parties, dances, meetings and rehearsals. Much of the footage is also shot in their homes.

These clips are interspersed with interviews, both of the girls and their parents. The interviews are skillfully conducted so that the interviewer appears to be absent. The young women come from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds. Candid, thoughtful, often poignant, sometimes funny, they share their experiences as they navigate their way through a myriad of issues and situations (sexuality, poverty, divorce, parental expectations, and ethnic isolation, to name a few.)

The narration is minimal and limited to providing necessary facts. Music is used sparingly and well. Despite the wealth of material, and what must have been great temptation, the filmmakers do not openly draw any conclusions or offer any theories. For the most part, 5 Girls presents 5 girls. One does wonder, however, if some editorializing occurred in the editing of the film. In particular, portrayals of some of the parents may be uncomfortably accurate but, one wonders, are they complete?

Intriguing, thought-provoking, and illuminating, this film is a good springboard for discussion and study.