Céline Sciamma – bande De Filles

Coming of age drama Bande de Filles (2014), or Girlhood in English, is a film which explores the idea of existing on the margins, as a black girl living in one of Paris’ infamous banlieues (‘suburbs’) and as a teenager drifting on the cusp of adulthood.

The film examines the experiences of young girls growing up in ‘quartiers dits sensibles’ (‘rough’ neighbourhoods), concentrating in particular on the character of Marieme (Karidja Touré), whose struggles span from school, where she is failing her year, to home, where she must look after her little sisters under the controlling eye of her menacing brother. Her initially timid nature becomes almost unrecognisable as she becomes a member of a gang of other girls (une bande de filles), who shoplift, fight and bully to add a little colour to the bleakness of their daily lives. Marieme gets further and further embroiled in this lawlessness, until her involvement with a drug dealer forces her to leave her home. At the film’s close, director Céline Sciamma leaves her audience wondering what will happen to Marieme, as her story is left without an ending. Will she continue down the dangerous path on which she has found herself, or escape, carry on at school, and return to her family?

The film was produced largely in Bagnolet, a suburb on the edge of the 20e arrondissement, but features scenes which take place in the Forum Les Halles shopping centre, and various different métro stations around Paris. Through these images, Sciamma displays a vision of the city that breaks with stereotypes, revealing a raw image of a space which is sometimes dangerous and sometimes ugly, but always very real. To continue to detach herself from clichéd representations of Paris, she works with a cast made up primarily of black actors, which, despite the diversity of France’s population, is still rare in French cinema. Many of the girls that she chose had never acted before, or were just beginning their careers, which adds to the ‘real life’ feel of the film.

the girls in Bande de Filles