Girlhood is a 2014 drama film that is written and directed by filmmaker, Céline Sciamma. The film follows the life of a black female teen named, Marieme, as she faces the struggles of adolescence, acceptance and identity while living in the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris. This is the third feature film from Sciamma, and it loosely follows the same pattern of her first two films, Water Lilies (2007) and Tomboy (2009). The film trails Marieme as she deals with living in a broken home with an over protective brother who is critical of her every move, and a mother who is often absent because of her job. As Marieme deals with the stress of her household her grades suffer which results in her being unable to attend High School. Marieme meets up with gang of girls, who end up being an interesting influence on her life. Marieme begins to change as person; she drops out of school, changes her hair, her clothing and also her name, which is changed to “Vic” which is short for Victory. Along with her metamorphosis Vic finds a new sense of belonging and confidence. She now has a tight-knit group of friends, a new boyfriend, Djibril, who is a close friend to her brother. She also begins to establish a very violent and rebellious attitude. Vic’s life begins to spiral out of control and after a series of events finds herself alone and working for a local drug dealer. Vic realizes she is not happy with her life but also recognizes that she is stuck in her position. The movie ends in a very ambiguous manner, we do not find out what ultimately happens to her and it is up to the audience to decipher and to determine her fate.

On many levels this picture was very enjoyable, but at the same time, something was lacking from the movie to make it feel complete. I liked the fact that the film took an intersectional approach when looking Vic’s life, it showed that her struggle was beyond simply being a girl. The film revealed that sadly her struggles came from several different places. She was a young black female growing up in a low-income neighborhood and was also a victim a physical and sexual violence; her problems were not singular. I really enjoyed how Sciamma depicted the female bond. When Marieme meets her gang of girls they first seemed to be a negative influence on her, but as the film progresses we see that they are an important aspect in her life. The girls, although reckless, show Marieme the importance of self-love and worth. I also enjoyed the fact that the film tried to show the effects of Marieme’s culture. After having sex with her boyfriend her bother finds out and beats her for it because she has given away her virtue. Later in the film Djibril says that if they marry, she will no longer be seen as a slut and can return home. Although its not fully explained, you can infer that this issue that is something that stems from their culture opposed to society. It seems that it shunned upon for women to explore their sexuality, and when that does occur they are punished for it.

A key scene that stood out to me was closer to the end of the film when Vic has begins to dress like a man after she begins selling drugs. Djibril, her boyfriend, comes over to see her at her new apartment. Djibril begins to talk about how he dislikes her living in such conditions and they begin to argue a bit, but they resolve and begin to make out. As they are making out Djibril take off Vic’s shirt to reveal that she has bound her breast. Djibril becomes infuriated and begins to berate Vic on the fact that she no longer resembles a woman. He addresses the fact that she no longer wears her hair out, or wears feminine clothing, and that now she is binding her breast. In a very accusatory and judgmental tone he ask if this is what she wants, after which he storms out in a fit of rage. I felt like this scene was very important to the overall plot of the film because it encompassed a lot of its key features. For one it really exposed the emphasized femininities in Vic’s world, opposed to the rest of the film where it is only implied. It is very clear that Djibril has a preconceived notion of what women must look and dress like to be considered a woman. This is a recurring theme that I noticed throughout the film. The males in Vic’s life have this that she must conform to this idea of an ideal women, who is quiet, follows orders, and is the picture of femininity. To me this seemed to be hegemonic masculinity, the men believe that for some reason they better then the women within the film and that they must conform to their ideals. These issues never seem to get resolved, which makes sense since this movie is about real life. Although Vic say she doesn’t want to be a male, its hard to move past the blatant transphobia, and it makes you wonder whether or not those her true feelings

I really enjoyed Girlhood; I thought that the beginning of film was very well thought out. It was nice a movie that focused on the importance of friends and the female bond. When it came to the ending of the film, it did not really sit with me as well. I found that part on Vic dressing like a man was unexplained, and it seemed as though the filmmaker just wanted to just add in a queer aspect to the film. It seemed like the filmmaker wanted to generate pink dollars, so they added a queer aspect that would interest the LGBTQ community. I felt that it needed more clarity to help audiences understand why it was occurring. I thought having an ambiguous ending was very effective, because it was a real representation of life, we have no idea how our lives will end up. The overall film was really good and enjoyable; I thought it was amazing that almost all of the actors were pulled off of the street. The beautiful cinematography and natural acting only made the film better. I would easily recommend it to anyone.

I thought that the Reelout Film Festival was very cool. I think it’s important to expose people to different cultures, especially in a town like Kingston. Along with Girlhood, I also went to see Blackbird; it was nice to see that both of these movies had a large turnout. The movie selection for the week was diverse and interesting. Next year I will most likely attend the festival again.


5 thoughts on “GIRLHOOD

  1. Nice review! I agree that the scene you chose shows that emphasized femininity is deeply embeded in men and that they often expect and demand it. Concerning your comment about how obsession over virginity is a cultural phenomena, with which culture are the characters associated? Which background specifically influenced their culture, and do you think it exists in Canada as well? Also, I think some of your points could have been clearer if some of the grammatical mistakes were fixed through proofreading. Overall, it was interesting to read your review. Keep up the good work!

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  2. Good review! I thought you did a good job touching on the key aspects of the film. I especially like the scene you chose as it shows these issues surrounding emphasized femininity, and how women are expected to reflect this “perfect female identity”. When you talked about the expression of sexuality amongst women and the obsession society has over virginity, do you think these views would have differed if the character was transgender? Or do you think she would still be facing the same ridicule? The point you made on transphobia was also interesting. Do you think the writer had any intention on Vic actually becoming a man? and if this aspect was only thrown in the film for the use of pink dollars, do you think the movie actually touched on deep issues that can impact the audience? You had a couple grammatical errors that it made it difficult to get full clarity, but these can be easily fixed through proof reading. I enjoyed reading your review!

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  3. I enjoyed reading your review of Girlhood. This was a film I considered going to see myself. I thought it was interesting that the director and all three producers of the film were white, leaving no people of colour involved in a project centred on a person of colour. Do you think it would provide a struggle for a white filmmaker to offer a genuine portrayal of the oppression faced my a black female both within her own culture and in the society around her? From your review Vic seemed to be a young women acutely aware of the social conditioning around her and it seems almost as if her empowerment came as a result of her shunning the preconceived binaries forced upon her. If it were a possibility, I would have loved to hear your thoughts on Blackbird as well.

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  4. I’m glad you enjoyed your time at Reelout! I too wish to attend the festival again next year. I find it spectacular that most of these actors were pulled off of the street, it’s refreshing to see potential starts in young actors’ careers. Your review was super informative and I really liked how you pointed out the pink dollars aspect of this film as they seemed to just add in this aspect of queerness where it almost didn’t seem necessary. Though perhaps it was added in to combat the perception of gender norms in not only French society but Black French culture. Though Do you think ‘Vic’ would’ve transitioned into a man if her culture and her boyfriend weren’t holding her back? Do you feel the film is perpetuating a stereotype of the black low income family? On another note grammatically towards the beginning of your review there were a few small mistakes, which easily could’ve been fixed with a good proof read. I don’t mean to nitpick I just felt I should point it out as it disturbed the flow of your writing, though again your understanding of the themes in the film were great!

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  5. Thanks for the comments! To be honest I’m very unsure of what their cultural background could be, especially since the filmmaker did not even remotely hint to it. If I had to guess though I would say that they were possibly from a French speaking African country like the Congo. They could be from anywhere. I think it would have helped in terms of clarity on certain topics if we had context, and understood certain cultural aspects. I believe that Vic’s situation would have been completely different if she was in fact Transgender. I think there would be even more ridicule, not just from her boyfriend and brother but from everyone in her neighborhood. I feel like people didn’t make a fuss about her dressing as a guy cause they figure she was only doing it to blend in or to avoid being seen so they never took it seriously. At times it did seem like Vic was possibly was transgender but wouldn’t admit it because of that cultural aspect, but nothing was ever fleshed out. If the writer had gone this route the film would have had a completely different meaning, especially because this queer aspect was introduced so late in the film.
    I actually did not know that everyone involved in the film was white, that’s very interesting to learn. I think it does effect certain aspects of the film, because now I question how valid everything is in the film. I hope though that the actors had a say in certain aspects of the film in order to depict their lives and community. Vic does seem to have a very good understanding of her situation, and I feel like her trouble comes when she forgets that, and allows her self to become stereotype in her community. Which kind of makes me realize that the ending may not be so ambiguous but rather it shows Vic rising above her stereotypes (being a young mother, a drug dealer/prostitute, a thug, or living in a broken home). Also with that, in many ways the film does promote a stereotype of black families. Especially the idea of them being them fatherless and the young men being in gangs. That aspect of the film was upsetting to be honest.
    Also, thanks for letting me know about the mistakes, I will make sure to go back and fix them, please ignore the ones in this comment if there are any lol

    Also also, Blackbird was good, the acting was horrible though, and it did not really address homophobia in the black/christian community the way it should have. They resolved the issues so weirdly, it was like equality came out of thin air.


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