It’s been to Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, and now Girlhood (Bande de files), a coming-of-age story about a young black woman from the suburbs of Paris by director Céline Sciamma, is finally out in the US.
With its fresh take on a familiar theme, Girlhood is both universal and timely. At 16, the movie’s hero Marieme is itching to escape the low income housing she calls home but determined to become neither house wife nor a cleaning lady like her mother. Instead, she’d like to finish high school and get a good job. But after learning her grades aren’t good enough to finish school, she meets three other young women with whom she’ll discover a more exiting side of independence: hotels, whisky, and gang fights.
Sciamma says her film is an “x-ray of womanhood,” starting from “the moment girls begin to want to be in love, sleep with boys, break free from their families.” But if you’re thinking of a flick that starts with homecoming and ends at the prom, think again: Girlhood is a film that takes its teenage subjects seriously and Sciamma has no illusions about the kind of film she has made. “Whenever you have main characters who are women who don’t only talk about men, you have a political movie,” she says.
The intense friendship of the four women at the center of this story played by Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh and Mariétou Touré grips the viewer as it does the main character. Sciamma chose to cast young, nonprofessional actresses in the four central roles after auditioning over 300. “I didn’t want to have 25-year-olds playing a 16-year-old adolescents,” says Sciamma. Equally refreshing is the way Sciamma approached the setting of her film, ditching grainy, jarring shots for elegant cinematography that she says is her way of “reinventing reality.”
Girlhood is now playing at select theaters across the country. See our list of places to catch this look at modern urban France that the Hollywood Reporter calls “smart and disarming.”