A film by Julie Gustafson and Teenage Girls' Documentary Project

2005 | 85 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 05877


Nearly a decade in the making, this refreshingly honest film documents the challenges and desires of a group of young women in New Orleans by letting them film their own stories. As this diverse group of young women - two teenagers from the Desire housing projects, a single mother from the working-class suburb of Belle Chase across the river, and two girls from the most prestigious private high school in New Orleans—make short films about their own desires, this provocative film records the intimate dramas of their changing lives.

Sensitively and intelligently interweaving the girls' short films throughout the film’s narrative, DESIRE pivots around the intimacy and risk that the two generations of filmmakers share together and with the audience. Addressing everything from sex and contraception to the impact of educational and material opportunities on their futures as women, DESIRE presents a nuanced and authentic look at modern young womanhood.


"A film so full of spirit and life you don't want it to end."

Barbara Kopple Academy Award-winning Documentary Filmmaker

“Presents the most insightful portrayal of teenaged girls' decision-making and sexuality ever available in film or print. Gustafson and the young ladies (her teenage collaborators) together capture moments that brilliantly speak to American understanding of race and class, as well as the whole process of growing – up. Poignant and touching, the film is suitable for women’s studies, sociology, American & cultural history, urban and rural history.

Susan Tucker Tulane University

“Reaches acoss all racial, ethnic and class lines to discuss teens, girls, sex, early parenthood-- and above all--choice. This is a "must see" for teens and those who love and support them.”

Pat Pauozzi, CNM, Dr. Phd Healthy Teen Network

“A touching and fully textured collective portrait. Gustafson’s understated compassion makes DESIRE an affecting coming-of-age portrait, offering an intimate look into the minor tragedies and triumphs in the lives of a handful of young women. Highly recommended.”

Video Librarian

"...far surpassed my expectations...a very real look into the lives of modern teenage girls. The insights provided by DESIRE can be used at many levels. Highly recommended for high schools, colleges, and adults who deal with teens."

Educational Media Reviews Online

"Desire casts an illuminating light on the inner world, the dilemmas, the evolving sexual identities of teenage girls. Freud didn’t know what women want – Gustafson gives us an insightful, sometimes disturbing idea of what teenage girls desire – whether it’s about going to college versus having a job, stopping to smoke, liking women instead of men, or deciding between having a baby or finish high school."

Berenice Reynaud Senses of Cinema

"A very moving, bittersweet, and intimate look at the impact of culture, class, race, and family values on young women determined to take charge of their own lives."


“A vibrant portrait of teenage life. Viewers will identify with the young women. …A valuable discussion starter for high school collections.”

Meghann R. Matwichuk School Library Journal


  • Nashville Film Festival, 2006 Reel Current Award
  • New Orleans FF, Best Doc & Grand Jury Prize
  • Indianapolis Int'l FF, Honorable Mention
  • Go Girls! at Symphony Space
  • AFI Film Festival, World Premiere
  • Southern Circuit Independent Film Tour


Julie Gustafson

Julie Gustafson is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has recently returned to the Boston area where she grew up. Her most recent project, DESIRE, was filmed collaboratively with teenage girls over a 10-year period in New Orleans. Completed shortly before Hurricane Katrina, the feature documentary was released by Women Make Movies, broadcast on Free Speech TV, and has won many accolades and honors, including Al and Tipper Gore's Reel Current Award for Best Documentary at the 2006 Nashville Film Festival.

Currently, Gustafson is working on ABUNDANCE STREET, a one-hour update of DESIRE, which picks up the stories of four teen parents from the original film. Now 30 years old, their children are 12 and 13 and face many of the challenges their parents struggled with when the project began, including generational poverty, poor education and economic opportunities, and violence in their communities.

Gustafson is the producer and director of many PBS broadcast works, including GIVING BIRTH, HOME, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, and CASTING THE FIRST STONE. She is the recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowments of the Arts Fellowships. For 18 years, Julie co-directed the Global Village Media Arts Center in New York City and its highly regarded annual documentary film festival. She has also taught undergraduate and graduate video and film production at major universities including The New School for Social Research, Temple University, and the University of New Orleans. (8/14)


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