Metro Weekly

Teens in the City

Reel Affirmations 2003

Review by Dan Odenwald

Rating: starstarstar (3 out of 5)
Friday, 10/24/2003, 6:00 PM
Shorts presentation, $0 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC

Teens in the CityTRAVELING DOWN the road of life, gay teenagers face many forks. Some go one way, others take a different route. Teens in the City offers a candid look at what happens along both paths. “Just Be Who You Are,” the first part of this hour-long doc, follows a group of teens who belong to D.C.’s Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL). It’s a feel-good story about kids who makes the right choices and end up in the right places with caring, responsible adults.

You can’t help but smile (excuse the pun) watching these kids echo the politically correct — and spot-on—self esteem-boosting language of their adult counselors. Untroubled by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, these kids lean on each other for support and find outlets for their creative energies. Their considerable talents shine in SMYAL’s annual drag ball, reminiscent of the balls in Paris is Burning.

Teens in the City“Life on Christopher Street” is much more depressing. The kids, mostly African American, share stories of poverty, drugs and quiet desperation. For all their macho bluster about living life on the “down low,” it’s hard to see what’s appealing about living life as a “homo thug.” Unlike the kids in SMYAL, these kids harbor tales of prostitution and addiction. It’s a bleaker, more sordid take on gay life in America.

Rarely does a documentary film present so successfully the dual realities of what it sets out to explore. By pairing these shorts, audiences get a rare glimpse of both truths. In a world where so many important issues are reduced to the “he said, she said” shouting matches of cable TV, it’s utterly refreshing that some filmmakers care enough to actually show us both paths.

Teens in the City
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