Girlhood (15)

Directed and written by Céline Sciamma
Picturehouse, Liverpool
1st May - 14th May 2015

Reviewed by Antonio Rubio

- What shall we talk about first?

- Umm…the sex scene.

- Wait, this is a review, what’s the film about?

- So it’s a coming-of-age drama looking at a group of girls struggling to survive in grim surroundings. Mariame (played by Kariya Touré Mariame) is down on her luck, and she’s using all the tools she has to fight against her situation.

- Do you think? I think she accepts it. She embraces all the rules of the violent patriarchal system and tries to climb to the top. She turns into a dick.

- Climb to the top? What do you mean?

- So her mate gets beaten, doesn’t she? And Mariame literally fights her way to be accepted into the world of men. Her neighbourhood seems to function on the ‘law of the jungle’ where the strongest and loudest win. Society functions by pushing the weakest down and the best bully rules. Wait, I didn’t mean weakest. Us using that word in this context is us accepting that concept of power relations. We should have used ‘most passive’ not ‘weakest’. You couldn’t say that Ghandi was weak, just because he wasn’t aggressive. Girlhood is a society where violence wins and peace is ignored.

- That’s a very good point. Do you remember the moment where some members of the audience were enjoying Mariam’s victory during the fight? I don’t think the director wanted to celebrate violence with this scene. The whole film is a critique of violence. Maybe we are so frequently exposed to these sort of scenes that it is hard to notice the morality behind them.

- Exactly, I have read some reviews about Girlhood saying that it is non-judgemental; that the director doesn’t moralise. Maybe our assumption that she is critiquing violence is our own perception, that it was us that were revolted by those scenes.

- Ok, let’s talk about something we don’t agree, the sex scene?

- Yes, during that moment (as throughout the whole film) she’s adopting a male’s role and taking the initiative, whereas he is taking the passive role.

- Yeah but that’s only the man’s role in how the media presents sex to us. That’s not been my personal experience of sex. I liked how she had complete agency in exploring her sexuality. When the girls dressed up and partied by themselves, it was for their own enjoyment.

- That’s a really important point to make because when girls dress up and wear short skirts people generally assume it’s just to attract men, whereas a lot of it is for other women, and for yourself. Muslim women do that. They have super-glamorous women-only parties and wear revealing ball gowns. In this way the film was definitely feminist. All of the other stuff speaks to both men and women.

- So we agree on what we think the film was about then, about peace and violence, about power relations.

- What would the reader think about this? It would be nice if they continue this conversation through their comments…

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Comment left by RC on 19th June, 2015 at 21:20
We didn't say anything about the beginning I felt annoyed that she was showing black people to be so horrible, the director being a white woman. -But then you realise what's being said in the film transcends race. She shows off black people actually, like the Rhianna scene; black is beautiful, black at it's darkest darkest.