There is something powerful and beautiful about a well-told story. Some of my favorite memories as a little girl were listening to the stories of my grandmothers, aunts, and mom. What experiences formed and shaped them, how they became the woman they are today; questions like these always left me wanting to learn more from and about the women I most admired and looked up to in my own life.
Enter the documentary The Girl Inside.
This new mini documentary gives viewers a heart-wrenching and heart-warming glimpse into the lives of a group of women awaiting sentencing at Cook County Jail in Chicago, the largest single-site jail in the United States. Through these women’s stories, filmmaker Kate Bryan, in partnership with production company BEHOLD, expands on a theme of Bryan’s 1 Girl Revolution podcasts: the truth that every woman can make a difference with her life.
Sadly, the voices of incarcerated women are often overlooked or not considered as valuable or important. With the numbers of incarcerated women skyrocketing in the United States—the population of incarcerated women has increased by more than 700 percent over the past 40 years—there is a desperate need to educate, empower, and help women heal in the prison system.
The documentary follows incarcerated women as they participate in a life-changing academic course taught by Dr. Laura Biagi, an interdisciplinary voice artist and teacher whose work focuses on teaching others to use their voice for personal and social change. Through the “Storytelling as a Healing Art” class, the students learned about the power of every person’s voice and then Dr. Biagi lead the women through a series of storytelling exercises and vocal warmups.
The culmination of the course and documentary comes when Dr. Biagi gives the women a writing prompt, “I am your voice, and this is what I want you to know…”
The vulnerability, hope, and empowerment these women share by their own voices and stories is transformative and beautiful to behold.
The film’s creator, Kate Bryan, has a passion for telling the amazing stories of women that go unheard or untold. “The project initially started out as a feature on Dr. Biagi and her incredible work around Cook County Jail,” Bryan shared. “However, it ended up transforming into a poignant piece about the power that we each hold to change the world.”
“There are many issues in the world because people are not able to be heard,” Bryan continued. “Our voices are our revolution and we must look for opportunities to speak up for those who are forgotten and to raise other voices that often go unheard—and above all, we need to listen. We truly have the power to change the world through our lives, and the world would look so different if we truly believed that.”
While your lived experience may be very different from that of the women featured in the documentary, there are four takeaways any one of us can apply to our own life stories, and I found the film left me with many rich questions worth reflecting on.
01. Your story matters.
The unique life you live has the power to tell an unrepeatable story. There are lessons you have learned that can benefit other women. Where has life taught you to thrive and not just survive? How can your lived experiences be used to speak hope and life to other women?
02. Do your healing work.
We all face trauma or pain in life. However, we also have a choice in how we respond to the pain we face. If there are issues or wounds you need to work through, do not be afraid to take the time to do your own deep healing work. You matter and you are worth it. What wounds or issues do you need some help working through in your own life? What steps can you take to become more emotionally healthy for yourself?
03. Who needs to hear your story?
As you grow and learn on a personal level, reflect upon who are the women around you who could benefit from hearing your story. Perhaps it is a small group of girlfriends, or maybe it would help other women if you open up more personally on your Instagram account. How can your personal story benefit the lives of other women? Who needs to hear your story? What are the lessons and insights you have gained that may benefit other women?
04. Whose stories do you need to listen to?
As The Girl Inside powerfully shows, there are far too many women whose stories are not being heard. It’s important to listen to those whose stories are outside our own experience, and to connect with the stories that are shared.
When women freely and authentically share their story, it helps bring healing and inner freedom. It renews courage and strength. This documentary will make you think about the power of your own voice, the healing gift of story-telling, and what message you want your life to speak into the world.