Emerging Theme of Teenage Angst: LITTLE BIRDS, PARIAH, CIRCUMSTANCE

Still from LITTLE BIRDS.

If there’s one thing this year’s festival has seen lot of of, it’s teenage girls grappling with being teenage girls. There is Alike (Adepero Oduye), the coming-of-age lesbian in Dee Rees’ gritty, Bronx tale, PARIAH. There is Iranian teen Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri), rebelling against her parents’ traditionalism and experimenting with her new-found sexuality in Maryam Keshavarz’s CIRCUMSTANCE. And in LITTLE BIRDS, written and directed by first timer Elgin James, two 15-year-olds—played by Juno Temple and Kay Panabaker—set out for Los Angeles, where they get an early taste of life’s hard knocks.

What is it about the growing pains of young women, as opposed to young men, that’s attracting up-and-coming filmmakers?

In an interview at the Sundance Channel HQ, James said that LITTLE BIRDS was inspired by his own story, but that he decided to focus the narrative on girls, because, “I didn’t think that, for one, 15-year-old boys would be very interesting, as much as 15 year-old girls, who are more complex.”

He said a female-driven narrative also gave him the opportunity to explore “the friendship between these two, brilliant girls.”

Complex relationships are also at the heart of PARIAH , in which Alike is torn between the protective love of her good friend Laura (Pernell Walker), and Bina (Aasha Davis), an alluring straight girl who introduces Alike to the sexual pleasures of attraction.

Not that teenage boys are totally absent from the festival. Films with young, male protagonists at odds with the world include WIN WIN, GUN HILL ROAD, and ON THE ICE .

For more of Nicole’s dispatches at the Sundance Film Festival see her blog on The Daily Beast.