A fascinating subject. Camera friendly faces. Dedication to the project. Dedication to the craft. These are things a filmmaker like Liz Garbus has control over. These are areas where her powers as a storyteller and an artist can manifest themselves within a given set of definable rules. Then there are the intangible webs that the documentary gods spin. In a time where “reality television” more often than not is scripted and manipulated, it is easy to feel paranoid when facing down the last bastion of true reality entertainment and enlightenment, the independent documentary feature film. A film where someone called a director, but more aptly called a documentarian, is incapable of directing anything. The life force of the subject, the signs of the times, the alignment of the cosmos, the Fates themselves are driving this train.

When, in 1999, Garbus points her camera at two painfully young women in a correctional facility outside of Baltimore, she cannot predict the outcome of her film. She chooses to focus upon a volatile, implosive situation and she can only arm herself with sensitivity to the issue itself and faith in an overseer who has gifted us in the past with the likes of Hoop Dreams. The main “actors”, a cherubic black girl named Shanae who was on drugs and pregnant at eleven and stabbed a friend to death at twelve, and Megan, a cloyingly appealing, yet self destructive (shebiselfdestructive) nymph, exist in a warped, confused world where the grim truths of life strike early and unfairly.

1999. Two girls