Monday, 20 July 2015

Film festival viewing notes: Girlhood

And so it begins. The Auckland International Film Festival 2015. YAY! As a preamble, I still have some complimentary tickets to the festival. If anyone is interested, drop me a line. Any movie you want, free of charge. And now onto my first review of the season (selection? roster?), Girlhood, a French film directed by Celine Sciamma.

Funnily enough, in thinking about this movie, I could not help but compare it to the film I previously reviewed, Francois Ozon's Young & Beautiful. Both movies are about young women trying to find their own way in the world, and to this end both characters become involved in underworld activities (internet escorts and drug-dealing).

Girlhood is the story of a 16 year old girl Marieme (Karidja TourĂ©). Unable to finish school due to poor grades, and unwilling to follow her mother into menial work and an apartment full of kids, Marieme joins an all-girl gang. While this leads to fights and petty theft, it also gives Marieme a new kind of family -- all the girls are stuck in the same place, with no real hope of getting out. With their only options crime or motherhood, they have made the only choice that makes sense.

This film is not about plot. It's a brave attempt to shine a light on the kinds of people and events that you do not see in Hollywood, or quite frankly, French cinema. It is rare to see minority actresses so firmly centrestage  and the young cast here are fantastic. I can't say anything more -- I just hope that this film opens up doors for them, and other French actors, to get onscreen. This film really jostled me awake about the lack of minority actors in French movies. 

love the use of music in this movie. The opening sequence, where all the local girls play American football in full pads and helmets, is scored with the track 'Dark Allies' by the band Light Asylum. Gets the juices pumping from the off. There is a scene where the girl gang lip-sync to Rhianna's song 'Diamonds' which almost made me cry. I don't even like the song, but in this context, with the girls dancing around a hotel room in stolen ball gowns, is so gloriously empowering. For a few minutes, they can just be teenagers goofing off and having fun.

See it for: The scene where they play mini golf, which is one of the funniest things I've seen in years.

Final thoughts: It's a good flick. We've seen quite a few films over the years that deal with teenage delinquency, so this lacks a certain freshness, but the young cast and Sciamma's direction help give Girlhood a vibrancy that help it stick out from the pack.

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