Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

aka - Bande De Filles
France 2014
Directed by
Celine Sciamma
113 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars


Synopsis: Marieme (Karidja Toure) is a young black girl living in an outer Paris suburb. She has aspirations but few opportunities, especially to attend the school she wants. When she meets a gang of three free-spirited girls she joins them, changes her conservative image and tries to fit in. But life in the ‘hood is one where drugs are rife and life for women is always one of subordination.  

Not to be confused with Richard Linklater’s genial Boyhood, this French film is truly challenging and eye-opening. Director Sciamma (whose previous film was the excellent Tomboy) based her characters on real girls of African heritage who she regularly saw hanging out in shopping centres or railway stations. Sciamma sought out their blogs and then, inspired by the energy and style of these young women, determined to make a film about female identity within the confines of  the taboos and pressures of their male-dominated working class social scene.  But this is not a social commentary film – it carries something quite unique at its heart – an insight into that place in girls’ lives where vulnerability, sexuality, sense of self, childhood memories and imminent womanhood are all coming together.

The film opens with a scene of grid-iron players in action but when the helmets are removed it is revealed that all the players are female. We soon discover that under the toughness is a feminine energy based on joie de vivre. When Marieme leaves school and joins the trio, she is renamed “Vic” short for Victory. She is captivated by Lady (Assa Sylla), the gang leader with self-confidence to burn and an almost masculine swagger. Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh) and Fily (Marietou Toure) round out the group, and the foursome go on a shoplifting spree, rent a hotel room and dress up in their spoils, then dance to loud music, eat pizzas and sprawl giggling and girlish on the big bed. In later scenes the girls brawl with other gangs, even using flick knives, to prove who is the boss.

On female turf they are full of bravado but as soon as males appear they take on an almost subservient manner. Marieme is nominally in charge of her two younger sisters while her mother cleans hotel rooms. But Marieme’s brother, Djibril (Cyril Mendy) is abusive to her, and home is no refuge, causing her to ultimately leave and seek protection from a local gang king pin in exchange for dealing drugs for him. This is also no satisfactory solution to her feelings of futility and disempowerment, and her ambition to make her life something more than that of her mother. Djibril’s friend, Ismael (Idrissa Diabate), is attracted to Marieme but the life he envisages for himself assumes female servitude.

The film takes a crisp and dynamic visual approach with plenty of strong close-ups on the girls’ faces and energy in the set-ups of dancing, brawling and just “hanging out”. Sometimes with Marieme’s near-implacable face it’s hard to get a sense of her inner feelings but by and large Toure is able to get audiences to empathise with her joys and pains. The characters’ interactions for the most part feel spontaneous and authentic, and the challenging of gender stereotypes is refreshing and optimistic. The fact that the girls have real resilience makes us hope that the future holds more for them than male intimidation.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst