SOME GIRLS is a feature documentary that explores issues of identity within the Latina-American community by focusing on a group of troubled teenage girls in a Bronx-based suicide prevention program who feel rejected by mainstream America, but are transformed through an exploration of their roots, followed by a trip to the seat of the Americas. On that journey to modern-day Dominican Republic, the white supremacist narratives about American history they’ve been taught are challenged, leaving them free to re-construct their own respective identities. What does it really mean to be American? And, more importantly, what does that look like?
Driven by severe identity issues linked to depression, culture and societal baggage, Latina teens have the highest suicide and suicide ideation rates in America. The statistics are disturbing: Nationally, one in seven Latina teenagers will attempt suicide. This trend has remained steady for more than a decade with Latina-Americans having much higher suicides and suicide ideation rates those of their white and Black counterparts. New York City, where the film is primarily shot, is the epicenter of this startling trend. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Latina-American teens generally attempt suicide at rates far greater than their non-Hispanic counterparts in New York City – more than twice the rate of white youth (14.7% versus 6.2%) and 44% more frequently than teenage African-American girls (14.7% versus 10.2%). And the numbers, from the time we started filming five years ago to now, have only gotten worse.
Told from director Raquel Cepeda’s point of view, SOME GIRLS is shot in HD, primarily in New York City and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, mixing vérité and, sparingly, animation. Being a member of the community she is documenting gives the director intimate and direct access to the characters and their families. While we follow and test a group of seven teenage girls from LIP, the film focuses on two central characters: fifteen year-old Puerto-Rican/Col0mbian-American Ashley, and sixteen year-old Panamanian/Dominican-American Maria Celeste. Both of these girls were born in the Bronx to immigrant parents and are struggling, in different ways, with adolescence, fighting Latina stereotypes and their respective racial and ethnic identities.
As the documentary unfolds, the film’s protagonists begin to develop a curiosity about where their ancestors come from. Ostensibly, they are Dominican, Puerto-Rican, Central and South American. However, Latinxs, being the genetic circumstance of the Columbus arrival to the New World, are more than what meets the eye. And, by reconsidering American history from the point of view of the hunted, rather than the hunter, we’ll challenge the whitewashed accounts taught to children across the nation.