Going on 13
Photos and Video
The transition from childhood to adolescence is a difficult challenge. Peer pressure, immigrant life, divorce, boys, and changing bodies add up to a pretty nutty time. In the spirit of documentary greats like Seven Up! and Hoop Dreams, Going on 13 patiently follows four ethnically diverse young women-at home, at school, and with their family and friends-as they negotiate the transition between girlhood and womanhood. Ariana lives in Oakland. She's a verbose tomboy-strong, independent, and poised to be a leader. "Well, I'm not the baby doll type," She says. Esmeralda is Mexican and lives in San Pablo. By fifth grade, she starts to think about things like "hoochie clothes" and boyfriends-but how will her traditional father react? Isha is busy navigating life in America. She prays at the Hindu shrine in her house each morning and night, and at other times, she cruises internet teen chat rooms using handles like "ghetto girl." These two opposing cultures make up her identity or, at times, her identity crisis. When we meet Rosie in Berkeley, she's 10 and the most prominent fact in her life is that her parents are divorced and she lives in two places. More mature than her age suggests, Rosie's determination is visible in her eyes. Directors Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Dawn Valadez (Tribeca All Access vets) remarkably shine a fitting light on the lives of young women growing up in today's ever-changing digital age. The dichotomy between the girls' family lives and the world they are transitioning in is reflected in the directors' engaging variety of filmic styles. They keep the pace at a playful and lively level yet seamlessly weave in the intimate moments. It's a coming-of-age tale that's both familiar and illuminating, and sentimentality is overshadowed by the enchanting mosaic of characters.
Co-hosted with New York Women in Film & Television.
Director's Statement Collapse
If there were any rules about documentary filmmaking, we probably broke them all. One social worker, one filmmaker, and one very ambitious idea: to follow girls over the course of four years as they became teenagers. Knowing that production alone would take so many years, we decided two things: one, that we would have to pace ourselves and two, that we would be making it up as we went along. This included a shooting schedule that allowed us to keep our day jobs, become very close to our "subjects," and leave the confines of a strictly observational cinema to either chat, hang out, or answer the girls' own questions about growing up. Some things never change. We all go through puberty. We all emerge transformed. These are the universals.
But we wondered what life is like today, for girls like us. Girls from the city, from immigrant and multiethnic families. Girls who grew up with stepparents and within extended families. These are girls with whom we can relate, and yet their world is a much different place. There are many films about teenage girls, but few films follow them through puberty. And biological changes are only one part of this transformation. There is a whole world of emotional, cultural, and social relationships that girls experience. It's an intense period.
We wanted to capture that and ask, "How do girls separate themselves from their parents and develop their own identity? How does this happen within today's complex social and cultural context?"
Each generation contains cultural references that mark that time period. In making this film we asked ourselves, what will this generation be remembered for? Thirty years after the ERA movement, what rights do girls take for granted and in which areas of their lives has there been little gain? What impact does a global and highly digitized world have on our most intimate decisions about personal development and relationships? What does it mean to be a 21st-century girl?
During our research phase, we met with hundreds of students in fourth grade classrooms across the San Francisco Bay Area. We chose schools with populations diverse across race, ethnicity, and class—the faces of a new urban America. From these classrooms we found distinct archetypes: the tomboy, the girl with a perpetual crush, the student who would never dream of defying authority, and the one who was happiest being "different." We followed them from the classroom to the playground and beyond. One wedding, two quinceñearas, and 350 hours of footage later, the film is as much a document about growing up as it is about letting go.
Many adults forget to listen to young people or simply choose to ignore them. We not only assume that our way is the right way but that it is the only way. This is especially true when it comes to girls' voices. For this film, we wanted to make a space for these girls, at this time, to share their stories. We couldn't have written this story; we didn't know it. It was a story only they could tell.
Film Information Collapse
Cast & Credits Collapse
Principal Cast Ariana
Screenwriters Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Dawn Valadez
Producers Dawn Valadez, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan
Executive Director J Clements
Editors Corey Ohama, Kristy Guevara-Flanagan
Director of Photography Gerry Watson
Composer Dan Cantrell
Associate Producer Sara Porto Nolan
Animation Adam Cohen, Eriq Wities, Daniel Yaffe
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About the Director(s)Collapse
Kristy Guevara-Flanagan (b. 1970, Los Angeles) holds an MFA in film. She is also a film instructor and editor. Her short films include El Corrido de Cecilia Rios, chronicling the violent death of a Richmond teen. The film won the Golden Spire at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and Sundance licensed it for TV after it played at the festival. Dawn Valdez (b. 1965, Los Angeles) believes that feminism is a dirty word, and she loves dirty words. She works with children, youth, and families in a variety of settings and raises resources for community programs, media, and the arts.