Winner of the audience award for documentary at 2003 SXSW Film Festival, Liz Garbus’ “Girl Hood” is a grim but engrossing look at lives of two troubled teens who must convince authorities — and themselves — that they’re ready to return to the outside world after incarceration. Often intense and sometimes uncomfortably intimate pic could generate sufficiently supportive press to command limited theatrical exposure before cable and public TV runs.
Shot on digital video over three years, pic traces evolution of two inmates at Waxter Juvenile Detention Center in Baltimore. Shanae is introduced at age 14, two years after she fatally stabbed a classmate. Initially, she seems frighteningly cheery and callous, claiming she sees no reason “to beat (herself) up” over a minor thing like manslaughter. But as she matures — and, more importantly, spends more post-Waxter time with her mother — she better appreciates the enormity of her actions. Alternately, Megan, a repeat runaway from foster homes, has a much more volatile relationship with her biological mother, whose own rap sheet includes prostitution and drug use. Climactic and cathartic argument between Megan and her mom is one of pic’s emotionally-charged highlights.