Image from: Girlhood (2014)

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Reviewed by sjilani GB / Joined sjilani 2014
"A challenge to socially and racially prescribed female identities"
France, 2014, 112 minutes Drama, Coming of Age, Teen
The trials and triumphs of girlhood is fertile ground for narratives that counter popular representations. “Girlhood” brushes aside the archetypal waif-like Parisian girl of the overwhelming majority of French beauty advertorials with four Franco-Senegalese teenagers from a council estate on the banlieues. The France of our protagonist Marieme (Karidja Touré) promises neither egalité as it holds up the white feminine ideal for a multi-ethnic Parisian youth, nor liberté at home, where sub-Saharan African patriarchal values still hold. The girls’ is a version of Frenchness widespread yet unrepresented, equal yet second-class. During their rare trips into central Paris, they are eyed by nervous shop assistants expecting them to steal, while her teachers have already mentally written her off, recommending a technical qualification despite Marieme’s willingness to retry for the French equivalent of A-levels. At home, Marieme tries her best to remain invisible for fear of her temperamental and violent older brother; out on the council estate, she re-fashions herself from a shy schoolgirl to the leader of a gang of four black girls. “Girlhood” ends as ambiguously as Marieme’s future seems, but not before it has spoken volumes on how the diversity of French womanhood today is still bumping up against outdated, socially and racially prescribed identities. A great watch!
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