AUGUSTA, Maine — In general, the best place for adults to be during conversations about sex is “somewhere else,” according to 16-year-old Aleah Graham of Limerick.
Graham knows they mean well but still, she would rather learn about sex from people her own age.
“Adults think they understand what we’re going through,” she said. “Yeah, they were teenagers once, but times have changed. Who are you to tell us what our lives are like?”
At face value, teens teaching teens about sex is an alarming concept, though Graham and 130 other students across Maine say they’ve found a bridge between adolescent chatter and adult input. The students have spent the past several months making a movie that they say will connect with teens about sexual health like no class or birds-and-bees conversation ever could.
Written, directed and produced almost entirely by teens, “Two Seconds — a short dramatic film” premieres Tuesday at Brunswick High School in what will be a literal red carpet event.
The film, produced in cooperation with Project AWARE, the Maine Summer Film Institute’s Reel Life Program and the Family Planning Association of Maine, is searing and realistic. It confronts teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, relationship violence and a lot of other dead-serious topics with gripping emotion. At a prerelease screening on Wednesday at a Maine Public Health Association conference in Augusta, the tears flowed and the audience erupted in a standing ovation.
“It hasn’t settled in yet that we actually made it,” said Lindsay Parker, 16, of Owl’s Head, who is one of the movie’s actors. “I did feel a little embarrassed [about being in the movie] but now that I’ve seen it, I love it. It came out way better than I expected.”
Nancy Audet of the Family Planning Association of Maine said “Two Seconds” is intended for use in schools and virtually anywhere else it’s requested.
“My goal is to have young people tell us and each other the truth about their lives,” she said. “I want them to know where to go when they have questions.”
“Two Seconds” refers to how long it takes to make a bad decision that could alter the course of a person’s life. But Audet stressed that “Two Seconds” is also how long it takes to make a good decision.
Students from central, southern and midcoast Maine converged at Maranacook Community School in Readfield, where most of the movie was produced over six months starting in December 2011.
Peyton Feener, 17, of Camden said the process of making the movie was educational in itself.
“It’s really important that we actually see both sides of the story,” said Feener. “Some of the movies you see in health class are really cheesy. No kids take them seriously. They’re seriously outdated and they make fun of kids.”
Graham said “Two Seconds” will make an impression because it’s unvarnished, real and to some degree emotionally difficult to watch.
“It’s so personal,” she said. “It’s almost too much. This stuff is really hard to talk about.”
Carl Lakari, co-founder of Project AWARE, said the Reel Life Program has produced several films with Maine teens about teen issues, but “Two Seconds” is the program’s first foray into sex education.
“We want their perspective out there,” he said. “This is about starting the conversation about teen sexual health.”
And that includes conversations with Lakari’s own daughter, 13-year-old Nadia Schmid Lakari of Saco, with whom these conversations aren’t any easier than they are between a lot of fathers and daughters. Schmid Lakari is one the film’s actresses.
“I feel more comfortable [talking about sexual health] around certain people,” she said. “Certain people have different opinions on it. You really just don’t want to be judged by anyone.”
“Two Seconds” premieres at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Brunswick High School’s Crooker Theater at 116 Maquoit Road in Brunswick. Anyone is welcome to attend, though seating is limited. Reservations can be made on the Family Planning Association of Maine’s website.