At first look, things can be misleading.
I didn’t do any reading about Girlhood before sitting down to watch it. The poster grabbed my attention. It’s of a beautiful, young, black girl and it’s not something I see that often. I was into it.
In the opening scene, I settled in to watch a montage of an American football game, which is fine - great even. Then as the scene played out, I realized it was women playing football - not soccer, not futbol, but football. Next I realized I hadn’t heard any English dialogue, but instead it sounded like French. Now I’m thinking, “okay cool, I feel cultured now, no big deal. I’ve been meaning to watch some foreign films.” Then, I realize I see a plethora of dark faces. I try to suppress the distressing truth of how ignorant and uninformed I am (I blame America), when I think “Oh yeah, France has black people toooooooooooo!!!!” As a side note, I'm a Black American dude. I still blame America.
I could feel my head exploding with the outrageous juxtaposition. I thought to myself, “enlightenment is a journey, not a destination.” I still feel pretty dumb though. I’m not going to lie.
Girlhood is not the girl version of Boyhood, by any means. That’s the first thing that you thought of, don’t deny it.
It’s a story of a young girl fed up with her circumstance in a working-class suburb of Paris. Marieme (Karidja Toure, Skoken, Le grand journal de Canal) grew up poor with a struggling, hard working single mom, an abusive brother and a younger sister in need of protection. Her opportunities are limited. She aspires to go to academic high school but her grades are pushing her closer to vocational education. She isn’t exactly Cambridge bound.
With so little opportunity, Marieme falls in with a girl gang, is given the new name “Vic” and begins stealing to be accepted by the other girls. It gets pretty dark pretty fast.
Girlhood definitely gave me a Fruitvale Station vibe. “ How could this not end badly?”
Honestly, it’s very difficult to feel for Vic. Every time she played with my heart strings by being sweet, loving, and sensitive, she’d do something moronic. She’d bully or rob some innocent, which apparently is a gateway to selling drugs. I began doing what I hate. I judged every life decision she’d make for my own convenience so that I’d feel better about myself.
Despite all of this, the movie was completely engrossing.
The duo who truly stole the show for a fella like myself were the director Celine Sciamma (Tomboy) and the cinematographer Crystel Fournier (Paris Can Wait, Tomboy). One of my favorite feelings to experience in life, is witnessing someone take a camera, and make a professional film on an amateur budget.
Fournier’s skill was a pure exhibition in mise-en-cine leaving nothing to bare. It’s always refreshing to see a film in her natural beauty. I go the theater to see films, my video games provide plenty of special effects.
If you love a raw, gritty indie, you’ll bathe in Girlhood and feel good and dirty. You’ll smell like a bouquet of documentaries.
It wasn’t long before I’d gotten used to the beautiful black faces speaking French while I read the subtitles. I’m ashamed that it was so jarring. Maybe I’m not as open as I thought I was. However, I know admitting is the first step.