An evocation of the lives of black girls who reside in such parts of Paris as Bagnolet and 



France's writer/director Céline Sciamma made Water Lilies (2007) and Tomboy (2011) which established her as an artist with a special interest in the lives of young females, be they adolescents or pre-teen. This film, entitled Bande des Filles in France, is her best to date retaining many of her established characteristics but also moving into fresh territory. The sense of authenticity present in all her work is once again found here, with her regular photographer Crystel Fournier capturing the milieu of the 'hoods of Paris while the young cast come across not as actors but as the people they are portraying. What is new is that the people in question all belong to the black community and, happily, insiders have endorsed Girlhood as a portrait which, made by an outsider, strikes no false notes.


Sciamma is helped in this by the fantastically good performance which she has obtained from Karidja Touré in the leading role, that of the 16-year-old Marieme. Girlhood is a study of Marieme's efforts to find her way in life despite her difficult circumstances. She does not always behave well, but Sciamma's portrait of her is non-judgmental and we see her in the round: as a rebel at school, as someone dominated at home by her older brother in a world where men call the tune and as a member of a crew made up of four contrasted black girls, an experience that she finds exhilarating but only temporarily.


Girlhood at 113 minutes could gain from being slightly shorter even if audiences unfamiliar with its setting might have benefited had extra background information been supplied. Nevertheless, aided by Touré's presence, Sciamma takes us into this world with absolute conviction and nothing is better than the film's final minute or two which brilliantly invite us to recognise both Marieme's doubts and her strength of character as she faces in her own way what must be an uncertain world. 




Cast: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Marietou Touré.

Dir Céline Sciamma, Pro Bénédicte Couvreur, Screenplay Céline Sciamma, Ph Crystel Fournier, Art Dir Thomas Grézaud, Ed Julien Lacheray, Music Para One, Costumes Céline Sciamma.


Hold Up Films/Lilies Films/Arte France Cinéma/Canal+/Ciné+-StudioCanal.
113 mins. France. 2014. Rel: 8 May 2015. Cert. 15.