Girl Trouble

Shot over a period of four years, Girl Trouble documents the compelling personal stories of three teenage girls entangled in San Francisco's failing juvenile justice system.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
57 mins
Remote video URL


Stephanie is pregnant and has a warrant for running away from a group home. Shangra is torn between taking care of her mother, who is homeless and struggling with drug addiction, and taking care of herself. Sheila, whose father and siblings have been in and out of jail, risks arrest and jail time by selling and using drugs. Girl Trouble is an intimate look at the compelling personal stories of three teenagers entangled in San Francisco's juvenile justice system. These girls, and many like them, aren't just at-risk - they are in deep trouble. Trying to change their lives, the girls work part-time at the innovative Center for Young Women's Development, an organization run by young women who have faced similar challenges. As the girls confront seemingly impossible problems and pivotal decisions, the Center's 22-year-old executive director, Lateefah Simon, is often their only support and mentor. Bay Area filmmakers Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajko document the girls' remarkable successes and heartbreaking setbacks over a four-year period - their daily struggles with poverty, violence, public defenders and homelessness - and expose a system that fails to end the cycle of incarceration. The film is available in both a 74 minute and a 57 minute version.

Featured review

Among other things, Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajkos grueling documentary Girl Trouble  chronicling the plight of girls in San Franciscos juvenile justice system  does an excellent job of illustrating the tremendous importance of children having positive role models...
A. Cantu
Video Librarian


A fine documentary about "at risk" kids - Juvenile delinquent stereotypes are usefully demolished while the lack of supportive environs and services for such girls becomes painfully clear. Fast-moving, involving item is a natural for public TV slots and educational outreach.
Dennis Harvey
By turns heart-wrenching and inspiring, the movie does a terrific job of conveying the girls' nightmarishly complicated situations without demonizing judges and prosecutors or sentimentalizing its subjects.
San Francisco Weekly
San Francisco Weekly
This documentary will be indispensable to high school, college, and graduate courses in a wide range of disciplines such as political science, law, social work, as well as psychology, anthropology, and sociology. It is moving and informative: there will not be a dry eye in the room at its conclusion.
Dr. Laurie Schaffner
Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Chicago
GIRL TROUBLE follows four San Francisco girls with various hurdles to overcome. Shangra, a 16-year-old (when the film begins) charged with selling crack, is better off not living with her recovering-addict mother but has no place else to go. 16-year-old Stephanie is pregnant, entangled with an abusive boyfriend and dodging an arrest warrant issued after she ran away from a group home...
Michael Fox

Awards and Screenings

National PBS Broadcast, Independent Lens
KwaMashu Film Festival, Durban South Africa
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
Portland Maine Women and Girls Film Festival
The Scholar and the Feminist Conference, Barnard College
San Francisco Black Film Festival
IFP/ New York- Spotlight on Documentary
Best Feature Documentary, DOXA, Documentary Film & Video Festival, Vancouver
Pass Award (Prevention for a Safer Society) - National Council on Crime and Delinquency
Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival
Statewide Judicial Branch Conference, San Diego

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