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.