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Cannes 2014 – Early Reactions To Directors’ Fortnight Selection ‘Girlhood’ (‘Bande de Filles’)

Cannes 2014 - Early Reactions To Directors’ Fortnight Selection 'Girlhood' ('Bande de Filles')

The 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the world’s most prestigious, kicked off yesterday, May 14, and will run for the next 10 days, through May 24. Overall African Diaspora participation at this year’s event is as low as it typically is, so no surprises there. 

S&A won’t have a presence at the festival this yea; it’s a costly trip which I can’t justify; plus the few films that are of interest to this blog – given its stated mission – often will travel and screen at other film festivals closer to home. But I do hope to gain access to the films of interest before then.

In the meantime, I’ll be sharing immediate and abbreviated reactions to those films from those critics who are at the festival, as they come in via social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, et al. Yesterday, I published reactions to Mauritanian-born, Mali-raised filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako’s latest feature, Timbuktu, which was selected to screen In Competition at this year’s event. Read that post HERE.

Screening earlier today, was French filmmaker Céline Sciamma’s coming-of-age drama Bande de filles (which translates as Girls Band but, it’s English language title will be Girlhood). The film follows Marieme, a high schooler who feels oppressed by her family environment, dead-end future prospects, and the rowdy boys in her neighborhood, whose life gets a much-desired lift when she meets a group of 3 free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted by her new friends, hoping that becoming a part of their clique will provide her with the escape she’s long wanted.

The film made its world premiere as a 2014 Directors’ Fortnight selection earlier today – a sidebar which is distinguished by its independent-mindedness, and its non-competitive nature, striving to be eclectic and receptive to unlikely forms of cinematic expression.
Girlhood stars Karidja ToureAssa SyllaLindsay Karamoh, and Marietou Toure.
Sciamma directed the film from her own script.
Thus far, I’ve only read reviews from 2 outlets. I’ve been waiting all morning for others, but nothing more has surfaced, so, instead of waiting, I’m posting those that I do have, and will update this post, as more land on my virtual desk. It may not have been a film high on the to-see lists of many.
Writer-director Celine Sciamma’s enormously satisfying third feature proves that her beguiling sensitivity to girls’ growing pains is not confined to the white middle-class. Newcomer Karidja Toure makes a mesmerizing impression as a teenager drawn into a black girl-gang in the Paris suburbs in Celine Sciamma’s expertly judged drama. 
From Variety
An engrossing look at the way a young woman of color defines her own identity vis-a-vis the various spheres of support in her life — family, school, friends and so forth — Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood” advances the French helmer’s obsession with how society attempts to force teenage girls into familiar categories, when the individuals themselves don’t conform so easily. As in “Water Lilies” and “Tomboy” before this, Sciamma pushes past superficial anthropological study to deliver a vital, nonjudgmental character study, this time following 16-year-old Marieme as she seeks her path amid a “girl gang” (a better translation of the French title, “Bande de filles”).
Both reviews are favorable, which is obviously a good thing. Reactions to Sissako’s Timbuktu yesterday were also mostly positive, so we’re two-for-two thus far.
Director Sciamma said in an interview with Screen Daily that her inspiration for the film came from the groups of girls she would come across in Paris, hanging out around the malls, or in the Metro and railway network. 
I was fascinated by their energy, their group dynamics, their attitude, style and way of dressing… I wanted to find out more about them,” said the filmmaker. “They’re not gangs in the US sense of the word; just big groups of friendsThey face a particular set of challenges but at the same their stories are consistent with the themes I’ve explored in my other work such as the construction of feminine identity and friendships between girls… the film is basically a coming-of-age tale.

Check out a teaser for the film below, which doesn’t give you much (it is called a teaser), but the footage here has my attention:

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