2014 AFI Film Festival Review: Questions that demand answers….A.K.A. the movie “Girlhood”



By: Vernon Nickerson

The France depicted in Writer/Director Céline Sciamma’s film “Girlhood” (in French with English subtitles) is apparently failing its children of color.  Which is being featured at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. When the main character, Marieme, alias Vic, played by Karidja Touré cannot qualify to continue her education in high school because she has been forced to raise her 2 younger siblings, she cannot bring herself to share why her academic performance has been so poor, so she allows her counselor to say in essence, “Marieme it’s all your fault.” Once she leaves school angry and joins up with a girl gang, we pretty much know this most likely will not end well for our anti-heroine. 112 minutes later, my expectations were met. Now I only have questions.

Sometimes, when stories are relentlessly stereotypical, (Marieme could be every other young woman of color as depicted by Fox News on a bad day with no options and therefore no hope except sexual and emotional abuse and exploitation) one-dimensional ( the lives of Marieme and the women and men of color in the film all seemed doomed to fail- nothing more and nothing less) and do not seem to add to society’s robust discussions about why humans exist, a far more interesting discussion centers around the following questions: Why was the story created? What did creator hope to achieve? What worldview and beliefs did the writer bring to the story? Does it matter that the writer is Caucasian and/or heterosexual and/or lesbian and/or bisexual and/or transgender? Why is there so little interaction between Marieme and her siblings and their mother? Why does the older brother consistently behave so abusively towards his younger sister? Who is the intended audience for the story?

Prior to viewing “Girlhood”, I invite the moviegoer to consider the lyrics (as recorded by Queen) to Freddie Mercury’s epic tone poem, Bohemian Rhapsody. While tone poems do not use a sung text, they seek, like operas, a union of music and drama. Unlike traditional symphonic movements, tone poems are intended to inspire listeners to imagine or consider scenes, images, specific ideas or moods. Having this “Classic and Epic” Queen encounter may help viewers of all people groups better comprehend Ms. Sciamma’s film, a 21st Century tone poem in the genre of Freddie Mercury’s original creation. Perhaps then viewing Girlhood may lead to discussions about how to solve the many pervasive yet not intractable problems of being poor and “other” in the dominant culture.


“Bohemian Rhapsody”- Freddie Mercury, 1975: Reimagined and Inspired by the film Girlhood

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I’m just a poor girl, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.

Mama, just beat up a girl,
Put a knife against her head,
Cut off her bra and pulled it o’er her head.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

Mama, ooh,
Didn’t mean to make you cry,
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, my time has come,
Sent shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, ooh (anyway the wind blows),
I don’t wanna die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of a woman,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro

I’m just a poor girl, nobody loves me.
She’s just a poor girl from a poor family,
Spare her a life from this monstrosity.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let her go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let her go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

(Oh, yeah, oh yeah)

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Anyway the wind blows.