Friday, January 30, 2015

Shine Like a Diamond

Girlhood (2014) - Sciamma
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Girlhood is Céline Sciamma's third and best film to date. It's an epic size film about Marieme (Karidja Touré), a 16 year old black girl from the suburban projects near Paris. Maybe it was our collective consumption of life in the ghettos through various media that I made certain presumptions of what the film is going to be like. But one of the many things I really like about Girlhood is how Sciamma's script manages to avoid all the 'urban genre trappings' while managing to see the affecting, clear-eyed coming-of-age narrative through.

Unlike Sciamma's last two white protagonists, Marieme is first seen at an American football practice. She is failing school and is told to look into vocational schools because she won't get into regular High School. But she doesn't want to be like her mom who is a cleaning lady at a hotel or a sales clerk at a clothing store. But she also needs to look after her two younger sisters and contend with her strict and often violent older brother's orders. Marieme starts hang with a group of bad girls who like to have fun and get into physical fights. They are slightly obnoxious teens who are into shoplifting, taking selfies and singing Rihanna songs out loud. Things get complicated when she starts seeing her brother's friend and gets involved with a local drug dealer.

Marieme is not an angel by any means, nor is she a neighborhood slut. With her physique, she can be imposing and mean to others. But deep down, she is just a struggling young woman who is trying to find her place in the world as best she can. Even though the film is not a Dardennesque docudrama populated with decent folks, as we see Marieme hesitating in making every difficult decision in life, we feel for her all the same. Girlhood is the first great film I've seen in 2015.

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