Céline Sciamma’s Bande de Filles (Girlhood) is a film that focuses on the changing nature of adolescence into adulthood. Sciamma’s earlier works such as Water Lilies and Tomboy, and the current Girlhood each concretise the ‘coming of age’ theme as part of a trilogy, with each film focusing on a different premise that will ultimately affect the rest of your life.

The emphasis on girls, removes the film from the traditional masculine French film canon; it opts for friendship and camaraderie at its core. Sciamma’s coming of age film introduces a 16-year-old girl called Marieme, on whom the plot focuses. The power of femininity and the bond of womanhood is characterised by the group of girls showcasing their sovereignty over themselves and their bodies, with a very unapologetic tone.

However, the film has come under recent criticism from black French feminists, who claim that the film is typical of a white French woman’s perspective on life in the banlieues. They state that the film comes across as perpetuating a white vision of the lives of black people in France. Through this they raise questions of accountability and representation; how does a white female director showcase the black experience, if she herself has not been through this?

There is considerable contrast between this film and Palo Alto, which presents destructive teenage behaviour that ultimately changes people through a typical romantic filter. Girlhood, which is presented quite differently, still however invokes the stereotype of the loud black girl who is a detriment to society. The issues surrounding race, which are already present in adolescence, are showcased and exposed in Sciamma’s work.

The intimate and fresh camerawork makes Girlhood worthy of its high ratings and deserving of its 95 per cent given on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is a brilliant piece of art that is currently available to watch on Netflix.

I cannot say that this film is completely free from criticism; at times, the story seemed to drag and felt as though something was missing from it. Still, I would recommend this film to anyone who wishes to see beautiful camerawork and a different take on a typical coming of age narrative.

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