CENTERPIECE: DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHTSet in the cutthroat, male-dominated world of high school debate, where tomorrow’s leaders are groomed, GIRL TALK tells the compelling and timely story of five girls on a top-ranked Massachusetts high school debate team as they strive to become the best debaters in the United States.
The Newton South Debate Team is one of the largest in the country, with a diverse roster of debaters; nearly half are girls and many are first generation Americans. Unlike most of their elite competitors, Newton South is only allotted a part-time volunteer parent coach, and the team must rely on one another to master the art of debate.
Shot over five years, GIRL TALK offers a front row seat to leadership in the making, as each year varsity members step up to become captains and bear the responsibility of training and inspiring the novices. The girls set out to find their particular voices—perfecting their speaking and research skills, while grappling with confidence issues, and learning to weather the realities of fierce competition. For every debater, one of the keys to success is finding the right debate partner, and together developing a winning strategy that will take them to the national finals. But, for the girl debaters, they must also learn to navigate the implicit and explicit gender biases rife in the world of debate. Stats reveal that a greater percentage of boys make it to the finals, and more boys win. As we watch our five Newton South girls remain steadfast in their determination to overcome the odds, they remind us that equal rights and freedom of expression are worth fighting for, both within debate and beyond.