Girlhood (Bande de filles) (2014)
Director: Celine Sciamma
Sciamma's film is the fourth of several films from recent years that beautifully explore the anger felt by oppressed women around the world (and have often faced for centuries). The others are Mustang, In Bloom and Wadjda (all directed by women too!). Sciamma's film is set in modern-day Paris, and follows Marieme, a black teenager looking for her place in the world. She joins a girl gang (bande de filles), and finds the friendship and support she doesn't get at home or school.
The film has been controversial for the non-moralising portrayal of this girl gang, who do things like steal, drink, do drugs and fight other groups. The story doesn't go for the obvious plot, where the girls are accused and pursued by police. Instead we stay within their world. We see them enjoying each other's company in their stolen wares in a wonderfully sequence where they sing along to Rihanna's 'Diamonds.' The beauty of this scene, and the film as a whole, contrasts interestingly with the subject matter.
The performances from the cast are very natural, and Karidja Toure as Marieme is particularly wonderful. She handles Marieme's arc well, from being slightly shy and uncertain to strong member of the gang, to a young woman on the verge of adulthood. There are several scenes where they are large numbers of teenage girls on screen, and it is a damning critique on cinema that such things stood out to me - especially as the girls were never sexualised by the camera. In fact, it is a male character whose body is lustfully lingered over (we share Marieme's viewpoint at that moment).
Clearly I loved this, finding myself drawn into a world that, when I was a teenager (and even now as an adult) I would never have paticipated in. The film's greatest strength is its portrayal of female friendship, and the positive force it plays in every girls' life.