Movie Review: Girlhood
Girlhood is a French film that features a teenage girl living in a poverty-stricken section outside the capital city of Paris. Written and directed by Celine Sciamma, the film portrays the challenges that come with being a poor black young person, and a woman for that matter, living in the midst of fellow poor people of a different race who seem to have nothing humane in them. Among the population of France, the plight of young people of African origin appears not to have been critically analyzed and explored by the film industry. The reason Celine wrote this film, from what the viewer can discern as to elaborate that racism, gender violence and differences in class were not only associate with America as a continent, but Europe as well. The film criticizes the mistreatment of poor black people by bringing up annoying incidents in which the protagonist faces, as well as introducing sections that reveal what young black people of feminine gender are compelled to revert to when they lose the power to express freely themselves and fin equal opportunities to education, health and other forms of welfare accorded white residents.
Celine Schiamma seems to have a soft spot for adolescent challenges and coming of age films that bring out the challenges young people go through. The other film she has written and directed, Water Lilies, reveals the ecstasy teenage girls experience when they first attempt sexual intimacy and continue to explore their bodies as they get lost in the quagmire that is love and lust. The themes of both these movies revolve around teenage discoveries, innocence and the need to fit in as they attempt the endless blocks they find on their paths.
Marieme, lives in constant fear and rebuke of her elder brother. She has a boyfriend, Ismael, her brother’s best friend, who lacks the guts to make a move on her so as to retain his integrity of the good friendship he has with her violent brother. Ismael here introduces the social aspect of the few good boys around that Marieme wishes to live together with. Her brother, on the other hand, represents the core characteristic of most of the young people in the neighborhood: rough, violent, insensitive. At sixteen, Marieme is at an age where she would use the care and support of her parents, yet her mother has an extremely busy schedule that leaves her insufficiently catered for as a child. This deprivation of parental guidance leaves her emotionally discontented.
The void inside her is, therefore, filled by three other street girls who take her in and make her art of their gang. This new lifestyle involves gun violence, clubbing, nightlife and abuse that fill her senses to the brim. She gets to understand what her brother indeed experiences. It is like a new beginning she had never realized before, and she completely immerses herself in it.
Sciamma connects Marieme’s new start to a change in life that affects many teenagers in the world. If an environment deprives them the opportunity to utilize their mental capacity, the young people are susceptible to revert to an entirely different form of life that allows them to explore their capabilities and the energy that surges in them. Marieme eventually becomes a care-free violent young girl who takes life by its horns. This is unlike before when she would cow in the very authority of her brother. This happens when she gets in a fight to prove to Lady that she is good enough, winning the battle over her opponent and is at first very surprised she can do that. She is so taken in by this new life that she engages in drugs and nightlife.
Eventually, two things happen that reveal how difficult it is to revert to one’s past and leave an addictive lifestyle for a stable homegrown personality. At first, she tries to hook up with Ismael but is unable to continue being with him when he proposes to marry hr. Next, Vic/Marieme goes back to her home but is unable to enter as she reflects the kind of life she left behind. Sciamma is a classy storyteller who understands and plots her motion pictures well. The story flows with excitement and wonder to the very end.
Girlhood. Dir. Sciamma Celine. Perf. Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karmoh, and Marietou Toure. Pyramide Distribution, 2014. DVD.