Bande de Filles / Girlhood (2014) dir. Céline Sciamma starring Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Marietou Toure
A few weeks ago I watched 17 Filles, a film directed by Muriel Coulin based on the myth surrounding the “Gloucester 18”, a group of girls from the same US high school who got pregnant within the same year. A TIME reporter claimed that the girls had made a pact to get pregnant at the same time, maybe as a form of rebellion. Although that was later debunked, the film - set in France - is based on the fiction.
The only glimpse of a black girl in Coulin’s film is during a wide establishing shot in the playground of the school the girls attend. The girl is being (playfully?) kicked in the butt by a white girl. Since it’s an establishing shot, we’re not really meant to care what’s happening in the scene, it’s just a way of letting us know that the characters who matter have decided to go to school that day.
This is basically standard practice in the (bougie) French films I regularly subject myself to (Claire Denis is the obvious exception), and that’s one reason I wanna see Sciamma’s new film Girlhood. The film is getting good reviews (this one especially although I don’t read French so there are definitely more) and Sciamma also seems aware of how messed up that absence is: “It was part of the thrill of making the movie, and the will to make the movie, because [black girls] are invisible on the screen”
"This country doesn’t give them a vision of what they could be, what they could do. Still, they are so strong and intelligent and it’s an incredible youth in France that we have."
"I wanted the movie to avoid the cliches of a suburban movie, you know, documentary-like with the camera on the shoulder. I wanted it to be wide and stylish. And so we decided to shoot the movie in cinemascope. Also so that we could shoot the four girls all in the same frame. And to shoot suburbia in a charismatic way."
"They’re not gangs in the US sense of the word; just big groups of friends… They face a particular set of challenges but at the same their stories are consistent with the themes I’ve explored in my other work such as the construction of feminine identity and friendships between girls… the film is basically a coming-of-age tale.”