• Sheila Pasene in San Francisco

    Sheila Pasene in San Francisco


The Film

Although the youth crime rate in San Francisco has declined in the past decade, the number of girls in the juvenile justice system has doubled. Girl Trouble, an intimate documentary by directors Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajko, goes beyond the statistics and chronicles four years in the lives of three teenage girls struggling to free themselves from San Francisco's complex and flagging juvenile justice system.

The girls at the heart of Girl Trouble, Stephanie, Shangra and Sheila, have grown up in a harsh world defined by neglectful or abusive family members, drug use, homelessness, and poverty. Stephanie is pregnant, and police have a warrant to arrest her for running away from a group home. Shangra, who sells crack to earn money, is torn between taking care of her homeless mother and taking care of herself. Sheila, whose abusive father and brothers are in and out of jail, is falling deeper into drug addiction. These girls, and many like them, aren’t just “at risk” — they are in deep trouble.

While the documentary tells the compelling stories of Stephanie, Shangra and Sheila, it also opens a window onto the juvenile justice system, exposing its failure to break the cycle of poverty, crime and incarceration that consumes vulnerable young women. While girls now represent 28 percent of the U.S. juvenile detention population, they receive only two percent of delinquency services, according to a 2001 study by the American Bar Association.

With Girl Trouble, filmmakers Leban and Szajko present an honest, unsentimental look at three girls on the fringes of society reaching for a last chance at survival.

The Filmmakers

  1. Lexi LebanProducer
  2. Lidia SzajkoProducer