“All This Panic”
Teenage Girls in Brooklyn
Shot over a three-year period with great intimacy and access, “All This Panic” is a feature length documentary that looks intimately at the interior lives of a group of teenage girls as they come of age in Brooklyn. We follow the girls as they transition between childhood and adulthood.
Director Jenny Gage’s chose to shoot her subjects—several teenage girls growing up in New York City—in extreme shallow focus and often with fluid, fluttering camerawork “All This Panic” is Gage’s debut feature and it captures the intensity of teen angst, the daily struggle of sex, parents, friendship strife, and adulthood hanging over the girls’ heads. one’s head. Gage filmed her subjects as they make the transition from high school to the “real world.” Filmed primarily in intimate small-group settings, we watch as these girls gossip, party, smoke weed, struggle to have sex, deal with family issues, and worry about their respective futures. We actually watch the girls as they grow up in front of our eyes.
They speak openly about sex (a lot) and deal with major issues of race, delinquent parents, sexuality and we soon realize that even when we laugh at them we are listening to their every word. The way these teens are treated with seriousness is rare what makes “All This Panic” such a refreshing documentary.
The film probably might have benefitted from greater diversity— there is only one girl of color and she seems somewhat divorced from the rest of the girls, though her statements on the discomfort of being a black girl at a primarily white school give some clarification why this is. The film is not a definitive statement on teen hood but an impressionistic series of photographed snapshots of a particular set of girls in a particular part of New York City at a particular time. What we get is a tone, a feeling that anyone who’s ever been a teen (and that is everyone) will recognize. While some of the stresses of those years dissolve, the question of what each girl wants does not.
The girls are an interconnected group of sisters and friends. More abstract and philosophical than a traditional documentary, we learn of the dreams and fears and hopes of the girls in what seems like a fictional narrative but is all too true. The girls have to understand what they want from life, what they want from romance, what it means to take those first steps out from under the shadow and protection of (or, in some cases, lack of) their parents. We see a compassionate slow-reveal of the psyches of adolescent girls and it is quite an experience. It’s also enormously heartening for anyone who worries about how the world today seems to push kids to grow up too quickly. The way these girls talk about their experiences with and attitudes about alcohol, drugs, and sex is reassuring: they worry about growing up too fast too, and they’re navigating dangerous waters just fine. The beauty here is in the impressions and perceptions. The varied experiences of these young women show us the fluid nature of getting older, each subject reaching milestones at different times, or not perhaps not even reaching the same milestones at all. Its structural looseness and its intuitive images are its greatest plus.