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Becoming 13

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Is there a more mysterious landscape than girlhood? This smart documentary dares to explore that increasingly intimidating terrain, following three 12 year-olds on their bumpy journeys into their futures.

Over the course of a year, filmmaker Victoria King is a welcome but discreet presence in the lives of Avi, Jazmine, and Jane. As we see, the girls are as different from each other as sugar and spice, but all are living through that uncertain slide from childhood to maturity.

Peer pressure is an important influence on the formation of identity but, as the film shows, the greatest influence in a young girl's life is family. Today, family often means that dad is remote or completely absent. That leaves mom in control, almost single-handedly shaping the character and determining the future of her young charge. What comes of such responsibility?

Avi spends a lot of time in her room studying, or trying to. She is expected to achieve nothing less than academic perfection - an admirable but impossible goal. In some ways Avi is more comfortable with the camera and her anonymous audience than with a mother who wants to know everything.

The nature of Jazmine's pressure is more subtle. Mom is devoted to her happiness, but must struggle with the needs of her other children, trying to make ends meet, and the hardships that come from doing it all alone.

Jane's 12-year-old life is equally involved. Mom is an artist who seeks to balance her bohemian ethics with more structured rules - not always an obvious path to follow. Like the other girls, Jane has to find her own way among many different signposts.

The filmmaker, herself a mother of a young daughter, treats her subjects with sensitivity and respect. Her creative approach, including "diary-cam" footage, not only follows the girls, but allows them to question their worlds in their own voices.

Ultimately, the film reveals the complexity of being 12,both satisfying our curiosity and inviting us to ask: What happens next?

2006, 47 min 29 s

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