5 Girls

PBS Premiere: Oct. 2, 2001Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Description

The tumultuous days of adolescence for 5 American girls are richly captured in the 5 Girls. Shot over three years in Chicago's diverse neighborhoods, 5 Girls tracks the struggles and transformations that come into the lives of Corrie, Toby, Amber, Aisha, and Haibinh as they confront the challenges of growing up female in America. While revealing differences in race and class that provide distinct twists to each of their stories, 5 Girls also discovers what these young women have in common -- resilience, self-awareness and a determination to be themselves.

Produced by Kartemquin Films, the company behind the celebrated film Hoop Dreams, 5 Girls is a rare vérité glimpse into the hearts and minds of five teenage girls. From first loves to parental expectations to the gulf between poverty and wealth, the teenagers of 5 Girls face dilemmas shaped by society's ideas about young women as they negotiate both everyday as well as momentous changes in their lives. Corrie, intellectual and openly bisexual, from Chicago's upper middle-class Northshore, struggles to connect with her Christian father since revealing her sexuality to him. Amber is an honor roll junior on Chicago's Southside, a world apart from Corrie's world. Not only must she deal with societies' misconceptions of her, based on her race and class, but also the challenges that come when she is forced to live on her own. Aisha is a high-achieving black teen in a Catholic girls' school, a basketball star who fights to stand her ground in the face of a loving but over protective and demanding father. Haibinh came to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was ten. A high school sophomore who excels in school and is a community leader, she struggles with the conflicting demands of holding on to her Vietnamese heritage while fitting in to American culture. Toby is the irrepressible 12-year-old daughter of doctors who manages to go her own way despite the impressive collective wisdom of her parents.

"Often when you see movies about young girls, you see how they are failing," says director/coproducer Finitzo. "But this is a film about five girls who face the challenges of adolescence with strength and resilience."

Each of the film's subjects confront the losses and gains that come from making adult decisions, and each finds herself eager, if not always totally ready, to discover her adult identity. Sharply detailed and emotionally revealing, 5 Girls shows teen girls to be both smarter and more determined to grow up on their own terms than they are often given credit for in mainstream media.

"This film is an important contribution to the national consciousness about adolescent girls because it breaks the stereotype. Unlike so many media portrayals, my work with girls has shown me that they have the skills and strengths necessary to navigate the sometimes rocky waters of adolescence. And, also counter to the myths, girls need and want relationships with their parents and other adults. That's important for all girls and their families to know," stated President of the American Psychological Association Dr. Norine Johnson.