GIRLHOOD/ BANDE DES FILLES, France, 2014. Starring Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Idriss Diabate, Djibril Gueye. Directed by Celine Sciamma. 113 minutes. Rated M (No advice available)
Director Celine Sciamma has made a number of interesting films with female themes, Water Lilies and Tomboy. She continues with this film, somewhat more ambitious than her previous films, a wider scope.
The setting is France, the outer rim of Paris, the neighbourhood with many migrants, especially from Africa. Most of the girls in the film are black with this background. The central character is first seen playing football in the mud, audiences probably expecting to see boys, but the girls are celebrating their play and their victory, then walking home through the housing estate.
The principal focus is on the teenage girl, Marieme (Karidja Toure). She seems an agreeable young girl, but audiences will begin to understand the complexity of her life, at home with younger sisters, caring for a little one, bonding with the other, but generally intimidated by their brother and his strict injunctions. Marieme wants to go to high school but is already repeating a year and the careers’ adviser suggests she go to a training school rather than high school.
But, it is the summer vacation, Marieme decides to join with a group of girls, mixing with the boys, but she is really attracted to a young man, Ismael.
After some severity from her brother, Marieme is sitting alone in a restaurant and is approached by a local leader, Abou, who invites her to become one of his girls. At first reluctant, she decides to accept his invitation, packs up and leaves home. Abou is involved in local crime, especially drugs, and uses Marieme as a deliverer, bright red dress, white wig, moving sleekly among younger society and doing her job. However, she still values some independence and when Abou tries to kiss her, she reacts hostilely and decides to leave.
And, of course, this is where the film ends, leaving her future open. Audiences have got to know her but will continue wondering about what will happen, hoping for the best for her. But, in this kind of world…
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released August 13th 2015.