Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Following 13 immigrant and U.S.-born teenage girls, MAINE GIRLS explores the important role that young people play in bridging cultural divides. In Maine - the whitest state in America - immigrant students are entering public schools in record numbers. But as the population increases, so does the number of hate crimes. Over the course of 8 weeks, a diverse group of girls at South Portland High School learn what it takes – and what it means – to make genuine friendships with people who don't look or live the same way that they do. Leading by example, these teenage girls pave the way for greater empathy at their school and in doing so, encourage other girls to step up and do the same in their own communities throughout the United States.
On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, which suspended the entry of immigrants from seven countries, and forced the United States to reckon with the wrenching question: can America still stand as a beacon of hope to newcomers to its shores?
In South Portland, Maine, this question was playing itself out on the streets, in homes, and even in the local high school well before Trump's election. Though, according to the US Census, despite being the “whitest” state in the nation, immigration in Maine is on the rise and offers a fitting backdrop for this exploration of increasingly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim time in the U.S.
Set against the backdrop of the terror attacks in Paris and the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, MAINE GIRLS follows 13 teenage girls at South Portland High School over an eight-week program of face-to-face encounters as they learn about each other, healthy eating, and hip hop. The girls, hailing from the Congo, Jamaica, Somalia, Vietnam, and Maine, begin to understand what fuels mistrust, fear and violence against recent immigrants and how to build bridges instead of barriers between different people.
A year later, following the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the filmmakers re-visit the young women to talk about the changes in their lives, school, community, and the enduring effects of participating in the program. MAINE GIRLS illuminates not just the differences between us, but inspires concrete steps for building understanding and acceptance.