If the throngs who adored Oscar hit Boyhood attend its French, female counterpart, director Céline Sciamma's latest film Girlhood (Bande de Filles) might get the reception it deserves. Bold, bright and intensely contemporary, Girlhood is like the brassier older sister to Linklater's contemplative drama; related by name only, and strident about its own identity.
Girlhood: film plot
We meet protagonist Marieme (played by astonishing first-timer Karidja Toure) as a teenager, yearning for an escape from her abusive home life. Her subsequent story is a classic coming-of-age saga – as she navigates society, sexuality and finding her own identity.
The scenario may not be unique, but Marieme's perspective is more so, as she addresses the challenges of life as a young black girl living in urban France. The honesty by which Sciamma explores this particular stage of this particular girl's life is breathtakingly identifiable, and her direction endlessly inventive.
Céline Sciamma films: Water Lilies & Tomboy
Sciamma's filmography reads as a trilogy of formative films. Her first, Water Lilies, discussed the introduction of sex into the lives of three teenagers. The next, Tomboy, told the story of Laure, a 10 year old experiencing the upheaval of moving towns and forging a new life.
Girlhood film review
This notion of changing and exchanging worlds, from old to new, is very much present In Girlhood; as Marieme turns away from her family she finds a surrogate in a gang of girl friends. Fairy godmothers they aren't: there's no neat pack of moral mentors here, nor benign older-sister figures. Sciamma celebrates real people and honest relationships above and beyond the traditional archetypes of storytelling. Witnessing Marieme's journey is all the more fulfilling; the more mistakes she makes, the more she learns about choosing for herself, with no free pass to happiness.
Interview with Céline Sciamma
Despite the acutely observed socio-realism, Sciamma is the first to admit that Girlhood isn't the 'gritty' ride that audiences might expect from an urban drama – and deliberately so. In an interview with The Muse, she explains, 'It's an art-house independent...that would mean shaky camera and such. I think the fact that it's colorful, that it's comedy, that it's emotional, that it's epic—the program is not just to tell it differently but to tell it right.'
Creativity over pretension then, and a progressive attitude towards filmmaking reminiscent of Andrea Arnold, who similarly used first-time actors in her award-winning film Fish Tank.
Like Arnold, Sciamma is an uncompromising talent, and a bright example that stories by and about female experience can no longer be seen as niche. Girlhood is an exciting, moving and joyous film that we urge everyone to see.
|Where||Institut Français , 17 Queensberry Place , London, SW7 2DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
08 May 15 – 30 Jun 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the film's IMDB page.|