Girl Gang: Doco a Compelling and Shocking Inside Look at the Life of a Teenage Influencer

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EXAM: Filmed in four years, the new documentary by Swiss filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures fascinates and disturbs at the same time.

Presented as part of this year’s Doc Edge Film Festival, Girl Gang charts the rise of future German influencer Leonie Balys as her popularity, earnings and workload explode.

Although she is the face of Leoobalys (as well as a range of products from McDonald’s to Chupa Chups, Buffalo Shoes, Levis and Amazon) on her Instagram, TikTok and YouTube accounts and platforms, she is very much a family business, parents Andy and Sani acting as agents, cheerleaders, and caretakers.

Girl Gang is screened as part of this year’s Doc Edge Film Festival.

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Framed like a fairy tale, complete with a magnificent “once upon a time” staged narration, it compels and shocks with its seemingly accessible narrative and on the wall of Leonie’s ups and downs and her relationship more increasingly obsessive with her “little black mirror” through which she communicates to her growing fan base obsessed with her every move and message.

We see her dad fire her agent, rather than follow the onboard advice she needs to be ‘more authentic’, watch a Viennese shopping mall tour be shut down by the police for security reasons caused by the masses gathered together and feeling outraged as an ill-conceived message about the “power of Chicken McNuggets” is first mercilessly mocked and parodied, then the subject of vile rants by rude young men.

As they coax her into fulfilling her obligations, while openly admitting to enjoying the lavish lifestyle her talents may have afforded them, it’s also hard not to be irritated by Sani’s behavior and, more specifically, to Andy.

“My life is so much more exciting,” he says proudly to the camera. “I don’t feel like I have to work every day. I’m living my daughter’s dreams. If things went wrong, we wouldn’t even notice – life is too good.

That last statement is the most telling, because it’s obvious to us that while he thinks he’s protecting his daughter from most potentially extremely harmful online criticism, Leonie encounters an awful lot.

Then there’s the sometimes extraordinary arrogance and naivety of the trio, culminating in their attempt to defy McDonald’s edict that they use a particular piece of music for a promo (despite incredibly not getting the rights of the one they consider the best). “Those are little fries,” Andy says, without an ounce of irony or humor, as he haughtily prepares to quit their lucrative deal.

If that wasn’t already making it addictive to watch, Meures has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

The dual camera crews do a fantastic job of capturing the reactions of Leonie and her parents at the same time, while there’s a separate focus on her avowed “biggest fan”. A year younger than her idol, Melanie runs a hugely successful fan page.

A far cry from Leonie’s shrewd and strategically lit posts, her on-screen musings and confessions are full of anguish, expressing her reasons for devotion (“Of all the girls on Insta, she was the prettiest, the funniest, the cooler. She just makes you happy, I can’t really say why.”) and the devastation of missing opportunities to meet her.

To Mélanie, “Leo has the perfect life, who wouldn’t want to be her?”.

As she takes a seemingly endless succession of stills of herself surrounded by her latest soft booty, it’s easy to see why, as the doco notes, 86% of teens say they want to become an influencer.

But then, juxtaposed with Andy’s gleeful revelation later that ‘parties, dancing and making new friends’ are the only sacrifices his daughter has made to further her ‘career’, Girl Gang firmly establishes her viewing status. essential for all tweens and teens and their Parents.

Girl Gang will screen at Auckland’s Civic (6.15pm) and Christchurch’s Silky Otter Wigram (6.45pm) tonight (Saturday), as well as Wellington’s The Embassy on Friday at 6.30pm, as part of the Doc Edge Film Festival. It is also available on demand at from midnight.

About Victoria Rothstein

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