“Under 16”: A Web Documentary on Teen Motherhood in Russia

“Under 16: Monologues on Teen Motherhood” is RIA Novosti’s first web documentary. Its title reflects the central story line: All of the girls featured in the film became pregnant under the age of 16, but chose to keep their babies. The viewer can navigate freely, from character to character and story to story.

The five young mothers come from different backgrounds. Some grew up in so-called children’s homes (akin to orphanages, but often for children whose parents are alive), while others grew up in a family environment. But they all faced a major life choice in their teens and turned to adults for help and support.

We learn from the girls’ first-person accounts about the way both their closest loved ones and virtual strangers reacted to their predicament and what effect these responses had on them and their babies.The narratives are presented mostly as monologues, allowing us to closely listen to each of the girls, delving as deep into their life stories as we choose to.

The documentary was shot in three locations: a village in the Perm Region, near the Ural Mountains, and in Russia’s two major cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, which have specialized support centers for under-age mothers. A separate section offers detailed information on these centers, as well as other support organizations.

The problem of teen motherhood is explored in the film not just from the under-age mothers’ perspective, but also from that of experts, with relevant statistics.

The production took two months. The crew spent more than 70 hours shooting, resulting in some 200 gigabytes of Full HD video. The footage has been intercut with about 50 photographs.

In 2013, RIA Novosti plans to use the web documentary format for several other projects dealing with a range of social issues.

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