American cinema has a long tradition of films about teenagers: teens in love, teens in revolt, teens in agony. Armed with disposable income and surplus time, American teenagers became an ideal moviegoing audience, and they’ve been treated accordingly since the early 20th century, resulting in a genre of financially lucrative “teen films,” usually aimed at teenagers themselves.
An abundance of established international filmmakers have also addressed themes of adolescence early in their careers, often resulting in nuanced, personal, and adventurous works. Adolescence, that twilight between the innocence of childhood and the consequence of adulthood, has proven to be a limitless topic for cinematic exploration. The films in this series, all drawn from MoMA’s collection, present underrepresented teenage lives, touching on themes from gender performance to radical political awakening. Primarily international, these films stand in stark contrast to the typically white, heteronormative, and patriarchal world of American “teen films”, focusing instead on characters striving toward independence on their own terms.
Organized by Olivia Priedite, Senior Program Assistant, and Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.