all this panic
American Photographer Jenny Gage turns her craft to the moving image in this study of a group of teenage girls in Brooklyn, New York.
And while All This Panic is very concerned with issues of adolescence like figuring out who you are, what you want to do with your life and what it means to be an adult, there is definitely something everyone can learn by being reminded what it is like to be on the cusp of something.
The film focuses on about seven or eight girls, but the stars are Ginger and Lena. It might be too dramatic to call them frenemies, but sometimes they hate and resent each other while still recognizing their long and deep bond. Both are utterly compelling on screen, and for different reasons. Ginger is struggling with what to do next and how to leave the nest. She wants to be an actress but as her parents and sister point out, she does almost nothing to achieve any of her goals. On the other hand, Lena is smart, introspective, mature and torn by the intense turmoil of her home life. She's not drifting—she's at college and loving it and not too pleased when Ginger shows up as often as she does.
This description might make it sound like there is a true narrative arc, which isn't really accurate. There is very little explanation. A lot of conversations happen atop other conversations. No one is introduced and few relationships are explained. We don't know much about who the young women are, or where they are, or whether their experiences are presented chronologically or not. We're not even sure if they all know each other. Mostly they just talk about their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes Gage follows them with a purpose, like to a party or on a date or to a concert.
Sometimes the girls are outrageous (in those few moments I was reminded of La Vie au Ranch, a wild French film from VIFF 2010). There is definitely a little edge to their revelations, given that all these secrets will sometime soon be broadcast to the world. However, the style of the film is so free and open that the subjects end up being very candid .
I actually found myself more interested in the parents, because the ones we meet are not your sterile typical conventional boring blah parents that we so often see on screen in both fiction and non-fiction films. They are real, complex and fascinating people who have made some unusual choices.
If I had any complaint it is that the subjects in this film are all beautiful thin girls, mostly fairly well-off. There is one beautiful girl of color, Sage. Sage talks about her expectations about attending Howard, the historically black university, and how other students have told her it is like letting out a breath you didn't know you were holding. I was eager to see a little more diversity.
I found it impossible not to love All This Panic. It's about the promise in everyone, even when they are young or naive or lost.
8th October 2016 6:30 PM at SFU Goldcorp