This week, I took the opportunity to watch Celine Sciamma’s critically acclaimed coming of age film “Girlhood”. The film was released in Sciamma’s native France last year and again in America on a limited basis earlier this year. It is currently available on Netflix under the “New Releases” for anyone else interested in checking out this film.
I was a bit skeptical about how the film would portray a relatable version of “girlhood” for young Black women in America, because it is a French film that is based in Paris. However, although the language and culture are somewhat different, it only takes a few moments of watching to realize that this film showcases experiences that are very much similar to those we see every day here in America as well.
The film centers around a 16 year old young woman who lives in the projects in a Paris suburb. She attends high school in the beginning of the film, but soon drops out due to frustrations with her school and familial issues at home. Her father is absent and her mother works multiple shifts outside of the home. She has an older brother and two younger sisters, and she bears the weight of responsibility in her family.
She meets a group of girls who take her in, and once she joins their clique, we see her blossom into a more confident and assertive young woman. She goes through growing pains – some of which are painful to watch – but it is fascinating to see how our main character loses and then finds herself again throughout the course of the film. The film tackles tough topics like teen pregnancy, teenage violence, bad decision making, and more in a way that is authentic, but does not represent young Black women in a negative light. My favorite scene from the film (shown below) includes our main character and her three friends dancing and singing to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”. Their carefree attitude coupled with the empowering words of the song truly capture the essence of what this film is about.
I was even more inspired when I read some background on the film and discovered that the casting crew took months, scouting actual girls from the streets of France in order to fill the roles. The director stated that she specifically sought Black women to cast in the film because she was appalled at the lack of mainstream Black celebrities in France. It is her hope that this film will open the doors to opportunities for other Black women as well.
Have you watched “Girlhood”? What did you think? Leave a comment below with your feedback!