Often the best documentaries are those in which the subjects are presented in a simple, straightforward way. In TALK 16, a Canadian feature obviously inspired by Michael Apted's series of 7 UP documentaries, Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman filmed five 16-year old Canadian girls for
one year. The results are fascinating, occasionally touching, and often comic.
Lina immigrated to Canada from Russia when she was six. She's a boyish but cute redhead who is bored with school. As the year begins, her greatest goal in life is to find a boyfriend. She's just as likely to act wild and out-of-control as she is to be a quiet, "nice girl." During the year, she
loses her virginity, transfers schools, and decides that having a boyfriend is not the most important thing in the world.
Erin attends private school and takes modeling courses. Though her family is well off, she downplays her rich girl image. Even so, she shows signs of being spoiled; she wears expensive clothes, quits her summer job to hang out at her family's country home, and goes through boyfriends faster than
the filmmakers can document. At her big modeling tryout she is not chosen by any agencies. Toward the end of the year, she reveals that she has cervical cancer. Her attitude about both the disease and the modeling failure is mature, and she is open minded about her future.
Helen comes from a strict, religious Korean family. She's extremely busy; she is a top student, an accomplished pianist, and a leader in her youth group. She also has a part-time job at a medical clinic, since her parents want her to become a doctor. She is sweet, but often impatient with people
who aren't as intelligent as she. She develops friendships with some boys, but her parents forbid her to date and she is given a harsh curfew.
Astra, a self-described "demon seed," has run away from home several times. She does drugs, has had an abortion and miscarriages, and can't stay in school. While at first she seems like nothing but trouble, over time she proves to be quite intelligent. Her dyslexia has had an effect on her
confidence and contributes to her inability to keep jobs and finish school. During the year, she hooks up with two troublesome boyfriends and changes jobs several times, but manages to stay afloat.
Rhonda's goal is to be Canada's first famous black actress. She is vivacious and giggly. She's not very interested in school and spends most of her time talking about boys and goofing off. She, like Erin, has several boyfriends, and lets them know "who's boss." Toward the end of the year, she
auditions for Our Town. She is disappointed that she gets only a small role, but with some time decides to make the most of it and enjoys her part in the play.
The interview subjects are asked their opinions about boys, religion, feminism, school, sex, and other subjects, but are mostly just asked to talk about themselves and their experiences. At some points, it appears that the filmmakers present certain discussions in order to make fun of the girls,
but ultimately no outright judgments or commentary are presented.
The girls are very different from each other, keeping the film fresh and unpredictable. Each of them has a distinct personality (in fact, sometimes it's hard to realize they're real people and not stereotypes), and after their initial interviews become quite comfortable talking to the filmmakers.
The film is pieced together cleverly, creating humorous situations. For example, when the girls are asked about religion, each girl in turn is shown talking about her family and beliefs, with Astra speaking about Satanism.
TALK 16 is entertaining proof that truth is often more interesting than fiction. Nothing monumental happens in any of the five lives depicted, but it is exciting and rewarding to see the girls grow and to see their unbridled sense of hope and discovery. Even Astra, whose life seems to be an
unending progression of problems, shows enough strength and youthful energy to give the viewer high hopes for her future. A sequel, TALK 19, was announced. (Sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Often the best documentaries are those in which the subjects are presented in a simple, straightforward way. In TALK 16, a Canadian feature obviously inspired by Michael Apted's series of 7 UP documentaries, Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman filmed five… (more)