Film Review: Girlhood (2014)

Film: Girlhood

Cast: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, and Idrissa Diabaté

Director: Céline Sciamma

Genre: Drama, Coming-of-Age

“Girlhood” (or “Bande de Filles”) follows a group of young women over the course of a year in the Paris suburbs. The audience watches protagonist Marieme (an excellent Karidia Touré), as they navigate growing up as a young women. Marieme struggles to find their place in their community; they conflict with other gangs, face domestic violence at home, and fight to keep their family financially viable. Towards the end of the film, Marieme takes a job dealing drugs in another suburb and begins to experiment with gender identity. When the film ends, their future remains uncertain.

The film rejects many of mainstreams media’s expectations. First, the cast is entirely black. Black actors rarely are featured in significant roles in mainstream films. When black characters are present, they are often used to further the story of white characters, as is frequent in white-savior narratives (Serrano and Hyden). In “Girlhood”, however, black women are the central actors. Their presence does not serve some instrumental purpose; their truth is treated as an end in itself. However, after researching the film, I discovered the director is a white Parisian woman. This made me question whether perhaps the stories of black women were being used to the material advantage of a white woman after all; “Girlhood” has performed well at festivals and has received numerous accolades. This realization reminded me that films cannot be analyzed as a piece of art in a “vacuum”- outside factors must be considered as well.

In addition, “Girlhood” is notable for its examination of trans issues and rejection of the heterosexual matrix or the “standard story”(Aulette and Wittner 20). Marieme spends the large majority of the film gender performing as a woman (Aulette and Wittner 65). However, once they are freed from the constraints of their suburb, they begin to present as both a man and a woman. Marieme faces resistance from her friends at home, such as her boyfriend, who reacts with disgust when he discovers Marieme binding their breasts. A greatly under-represented identity, it was refreshing to see a genuine exploration of gender fluidity. This story reminded me to be conscious of my own essentialism of gender- although Marieme was female-bodied, that did not mean their gender would correspond with the one they were assigned at birth (Aulette and Wittner 48).

The most memorable scene of the film takes place at the beginning. Following an all-girl American football match, a gang of women walk through a housing project together, boisterously teasing and joking with one another. As they enter a complex with male bodies present, they drop completely into silence. The difference is both stark and profound. It perfectly illustrates the naturalizing of inequalities (Aulette and Wittner 287). Women are perceived to be naturally submissive so their actions are policed and socialized to reflect that, further reinforcing the passive/active dichotomy. The film simultaneously illuminates this pattern, while commenting on its ludicrousness. It demonstrates that women are not quiet or passive whatsoever, rather, it deliberately begins with a scene that illustrates their aggressiveness.

The film was screened at Reel Out Film Festival. The audience was markedly different that the typical demographics of Queen’s University. The audience was largely made up of people of colour and members of the queer community. This was encouraging to me, as I felt it presented an excellent forum for people to forge connections that are hard to make in the context of the broader Kingston community. Moreover, it was an excellent opportunity to engage with the community outside the so-called “Queen’s bubble”. While I recognized many students and professors at the film screening, I also had the chance to interact with local Kingstonians. This served as an excellent reminder that the community is shared amoung various groups and that student-centered programming can be exclusionary. I believe Reel Out did an excellent job of engaging with the entire community in an inclusive way.

In conclusion, “Girlhood” is a sincere examination of race and gender identity in today’s society. Brilliantly acted, the film showcases unknown young actors, allowing the stories of black queer women to decenter whiteness and straightness. A clever critique of the inequalities young people face, “Girlhood” forces the audience to consider their own conceptions of identity politics and face their own internalized oppression (for me, it was the assumed alignment of gender and biology until proven otherwise). I would recommend both the film “Girlhood”, and the Reel Out film festival, without reservation.

References

 Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Serrono, Shea, and Steven Hyden. “A Conversation About Great White Saviors in Movies.” Grantland. 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/a-conversation-about-great-white-saviors-in-movies/&gt;.

12eg22

The Way He Looks – Blog Post 1 – Film Review

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Blog #1: Film Review for Reelout Queer Film Festival

The Way He Looks (2014) (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho)

Director: Daniel Ribeiro

Actors: Ghilerme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim

Genre: Drama, Romance

Daniel Ribeiro’s The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) stars a visually impaired 15-year-old boy Leonardo (Ghilerme Lobo) who, like any adolescent, craves independence.  Leonardo has grown up in the close watch of his parents, his grandmother, and his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim). When new student, Gabriel (Fabio Audi), arrives at his school, Ribeiro uses realistic moments for showing developing feelings in a young gay boy. Leonardo tries to balance his feelings for Gabriel, as well as keep his best friend close. At many points in the film, the 3 friends feel heart ache but it eventually heals. Without diving too deep into sappy love, Ribeiro’s romantic drama sheds a light on romance and an uplifting battle towards independence.

In the minds of many young people, the ideal is to be different, while still fitting into the social construction even without realizing it. For Leonardo, however, it was the other way around. There was a clear separation in cultural hegemony and he was the inferior side. Leonardo was already different than his classmates because he had a visual impairment and required some special attention. All he wanted was to be equal to his peers and have the same opportunities.

Although no one knew of his homosexuality until near the end of the film, Leonardo did a good job at hiding this until he could finally be alone with Gabriel and let him know by a simple kiss. Gabriel’s character portrayed what it truly means to be a good friend and allowed Leonardo to have the opportunities  that other students had, such as going to the movies, listening to new music, teaching him to dance, drinking alcohol together, and most importantly accepting Leonardo for who he was – blindness and all.

The costumes that Daniel Ribeiro chose for the actors and actresses mostly represented the school they attended as they had to wear a uniform. These uniforms symbolized the equality that must be shared in order to get along with one another. This point was certainly proved at the end of the film when Gabriel takes Leonardo in hand and they walk away from the bullies who had be commenting on what they did not know was a real homosexual relationship.

The overall writing of the story was fairly slow moving as the official climax did not occur until the end of the film when Gabriel reciprocated his love for Leonardo. Ribeiro allows the viewer to feel a small sense of heart warmth, but not too much romance which makes for a good balance between reality and movie world. The film was very representative of a possible real-life situation with the inclusion of homophobia as well as letting oneself express who they are.

The set design and area of filming at the characters school and in their neighbourhood could be seen as a stereotypical representation of Portugal because of the fence around Leonardo’s house, promoting an unsafe community but also perhaps wealth. In other countries, it is usually wealthy families that feel they need a fence around their house for protection, although it may be possible that the fence was a metaphor for Leonardo’s sexuality. He may have felt unsafe to come out of behind the fence (or in this case, the closet) and tell people or a person that he had feelings for Gabriel, and therefore kept quiet until he was alone with Gabriel in a safe environment, such as his room.

There are comparisons with Disney’s Frozen that can be drawn with The Way He Looks. By the end of the film, it is very clear that Leonardo is homosexual and has feelings for another boy, but in Frozen there are questions of queerbaiting and whether or not the two sisters represent a relationship. Is Frozen offering hope for queerness? There are many universal meanings extracted from the 2013 film.

There is a critique of queercripping in this film because Leonardo is bullied for being blind, but also when he becomes close friends with Gabriel, he is then made fun of for being queer as well. He becomes viewed as an ‘other’ because of his differences in ability and sexual preferences. The film shows appreciation for the LGBTQ community and how welcoming others can be when a person comes out. At first, Giovana does not show this, but comes around when she realizes that Leonardo is serious about being in love with Gabriel.

The bullies in this film showed characteristics that made them out at believers of compulsory heterosexuality by the way they put down Leonardo and Gabriel’s relationship. Compulsory heterosexuality is becoming less of a major issue because of the awareness and higher levels of appreciation for the LGBTQ communities, which is fantastic.

My experience of Reelout Queer Film Festival was exciting and enjoyable. I felt extremely safe and included in and around the theatre where I watched The Way He Looks. A friend who is not in the course joined me and enjoyed the experience as well. I think it is wonderful that Reelout is in Kingston because it shows the inclusiveness that Kingston has for the LGBTQ community. The people in the theater were very heartwarming and friendly as they shifted seats so we could fit maximum amounts of people in the sold-out show. It made me feel very proud and lucky to be living in such a city that is this respectful.

References

“The Way He Looks.” International Movie Databse. n.p.  2014. Web. Feb. 8 2015.

“Introduction.” Reelout Arts Project Inc. n.p. n.d. Web. Feb. 9 2015.

“Reelout Organizational Mandate.” Reelout Arts Projet Inc. n.p. n.d. Web. Feb. 9 2015.

The Way He Looks. 2014.

~ foster.s

GIRLTRASH: All Night Long – Film Review

Blog #1: Film Review for Reelout Queer Film Festival

GIRLTRASH: All Night Long (2014)

Director: Alexandra Kondracke 

Actors: Lisa Rieffel, Michelle Lombardo, Gabrielle Christian, and Mandy Musgrave

Genre: Musical, Comedy

Defining a sense of self in young adulthood is the focus point of Alexandra Kondracke’s film “GIRLTRASH: All Night Long.” Kondracke’s film traces the epic one – night adventure of Daisy (Lisa Rieffel), her best friend Tyler (Michelle Lombardo), both of whom are lesbian, and her younger sister Colby (Gabrielle Christian).

Daisy and Tyler’s band has been chosen to play at Band Slam, with a chance to win five thousand dollars. Surprisingly, Colby has decided that she too is a lesbian and asks Daisy to take her to the local gay bar so that she can pursue her girl – crush, a struggling actor named Misty (Mandy Musgrave). After watching Colby fail miserably when flirting, Daisy and Tyler construct a plan to hook Colby up with Misty. However, Misty is not interested because she is falling for bad – girl Tyler. Meanwhile, Daisy is trying to move on from her ex – girlfriend Xan, who is also competing at Band Slam. There are a number of inter – connected stories in the film, including, a violent ex – con named Monique Jones who is chasing after the girls to get the money that she is owed.

Kondracke’s female oriented film was refreshing, and rejects the double standard that it is more natural and more moral for men to be sexually active, and that women should be less interested in sex and less sexually active (Aulette and Wittner 94). The central plot line is the girls’ attempts to hook up with their crushes. This theme is clearly displayed in the first, very comical, musical performance. After convincing Misty and her best friend Sid to join them on their night out, the five girls are driving down the highway when Daisy sings “Raise your hand if you want to get laid tonight”, followed by the chorus that includes the lyrics “By 2 AM I hope I’m naked with her”. Kondracke makes no effort to conceal the sexual desires of the girls, or to portray their desires as irrational or immoral.

“GIRLTRASH: All Night Long” also challenged the stereotypical presentation of lesbian characters (Aulette and Wittner 22). Both Daisy and Tyler physically represent hegemonic masculinity, which is a typical portrayal of lesbians (Aulette and Wittner 7). Their gender expression consists of wearing edgy, punk clothing, sporting shorter haircuts, playing rock ‘n’ roll music and acting recklessly (Gender Spectrum). However, through Daisy’s attachment to her ex – girlfriend, and Tyler’s shame surrounding her countless random hook – ups, Kondracke demonstrates that masculine appearances do not limit emotional vulnerability.

Personally, I felt that there was one scene that Kondracke brilliantly emphasized the film’s message of embracing self – discovery. Colby and the girls return to Colby’s sorority house. Colby finds her sorority sisters, who are the epitome of emphasized femininity, waiting for her (Aulette and Wittner 8). Colby reveals to them that she is a lesbian and they are not surprised. Her sorority sisters then proceed to get high on the drugs they bought from Tyler, but Colby seeks out Misty instead. In a quieter scene, Colby and Misty sit together as Misty discusses her struggles to find comfort within the chaos of Los Angeles. Colby responds by reassuring Misty that there exists beautiful treasures hidden throughout the city, and Misty just needs to find them. Colby’s response can be interpreted to be a metaphor for her personal journey. The social construction of gender within her sorority house and the unhealthy dynamics within her family relationships prevented Colby from having any sense of self (Aulette and Wittner 33). But after making peace with these imperfections, she was able to discover her true self.

“GIRLTRASH: All Night Long” was presented at the Reelout Film Festival. I attended the screening alone, but I felt safe in the theatre. The majority of the audience was members of Kingston’s queer community. I was excited to view the film with others who did not share my experiences. Afterwards, a Kingstonian struck up a conversation with me. We shared our thoughts on the musical performances, the unconventional presentation of sexuality and the similarities to mainstream comedies. I am happy that I attended an event that provokes such stimulating discussion, while including the entire Kingston community.

References

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

“Understanding Gender”. Gender Spectrum. 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2015.

~ graceelisabeth

First Period – Movie Review

The desire to fit in with the popular group but still stay true to oneself is a struggle that many teenagers face in their lives. Director Charlie Vaughn brings this teenage conflict to the big screen in his set in the 1980s comedy film, “First Period.” (“First Period”). Brandon Alexander III portrays the main character Cassie Glenn, a new girl in town who wants to make new friends quickly so she can have a big party for her sixteenth birthday. Upon her arrival at school, Cassie is judged by her large personality and strong self-confidence and is immediately labelled a freak by the popular girls Heather and Other Heather, played by Lauren Rose Lewis and Karli Kaiser. After being rejected by the Heathers, Cassie befriends another social outcast in the school, Maggie, played by Dudley Beene. Together, Cassie and Maggie work together to be accepted by their peers, take first prize at the school talent show and win over the Heathers’ boyfriends Dirk and Brett portrayed by Michael Turchin and Leigh Wakeford.

The movie itself had an important message and was inclusive to all sexual orientations. The movie ignored the gender binary and typical gender roles as the two main female characters, Cassie and Maggie, were played by male actors. This overall creates an inclusive tone for the Trans* community and those who do not identify with a specific gender. However, for male actors to portray females, there was a strong use of arbitrary signs to emphasize the characters’ femininity. For example, Cassie wore a lot of pink and animal print outfits in the movie. The movie was also inclusive towards homosexuality, as two male characters are gay. With that being said, there was a significant amount of homosexual stereotypes that surround one of the gay characters. For example, the male character had a strong appreciated for fashion, was very careful with his clothes and always wanted his guy friend to take his shirt off.

Even though the movie was inclusive and had a strong message of staying true to oneself, the movie overused comedic elements that ultimately became tiresome. There is a repetition of one-liners in the movie that are funny when you first hear them, but eventually become predictable and foolish. There is also a constant exaggeration of the 1980s lifestyle in attempt to make the movie more comedic. A lot of work was put into making the characters funny and as a result the plot acted as fluff to support the characters’ humour. Consequently, this movie is for viewers who enjoy films that are very character driven and satirical.

One key scene in the film is when Cassie and Maggie are accused of sleeping with the Heathers’ boyfriends Dirk and Brett. This scene is important as it brings into perspective how hook-up culture creates gender inequality. One of the issues with this scene is that Cassie and Maggie are being called “sluts” while the acts of the Dirk and Brett are ignored. This overall highlights sexual double standards that exist in society. The double standard being that if girls engage in a lot of sexual activity they are classified at sluts, but males are not ridiculed. Dirk and Brett’s lack of blame from others also adds to the concept of hegemonic masculinities, as it shows their male gender allows them to be in a better social position. As I was watching this scene, I knew that this is a common occurrence in today’s society. As noted in the chapter, “Sexualities” in the book Gendered Worlds, today’s hookup culture creates a sense of male domination as hooking up enhances a man’s reputation but brings shame and harm to females (Aulette and Wittner 100). Even though nothing ever happened with Cassie, Maggie, Dirk and Brett, this scene shows that gender inequality within sexual preferences.

To view “First Period” I attended the Reelout Film Festival in Kingston. The festival is one that strives to celebrate the queer community and acknowledge issues that create inequality within society (Reelout Organizational Mandate). I believe that the Reelout Film Festival is an impactful event for the city of Kingston. The festival itself shows that Kingston is inclusive of the LGBTQ community. All of the advanced tickets for every movie were sold out which goes to show that the residents in Kingston see it is important to become informed and accepting of everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to the screening of “First Period,” two short films created by local filmmakers were shown, which overall emphasized the feeling of community and togetherness. Overall, I see that the Reelout Film Festival is a very powerful and positive event, as it recognizes and appreciates the diversity within the community.

~  lesg1249

References

Aulette, Judy Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds: Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.

“First Period.” International Movie Database. n.p. 2013. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.

“Reelout Organizational Mandate.” Reelout Arts Project Inc. n.p.,n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 20

Out In The Night – Movie Review

Out In The Night (2014)

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Cast: Renata Hill, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson

Director: Blair Dorosh-Walther

Blair Dorosh-Walther goes above and beyond with this eye-opening, inspiring feature length documentary which follows the true story of four homosexual African-American women named Renata Hill, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, and Patreese Johnson, who were each sentenced to multiple years in jail for specific acts of self-defense.

While on a weekend getaway in New York, the group of seven women was walking around the streets to try and find a place to relax and have some fun. As they were approaching a street corner, they were confronted by a man, who had showed interest in one of the girls of the group. Upon explaining that they were all homosexual, the man began to chase them down and spit derogatory terms at them, while at the same time exclaiming what he would do to them sexually. Eventually a fight broke out, and the women had to defend themselves. Patreese pulled out a knife she had carried along with her, and swung it at him, hitting his abdomen. The police were called and all of the women were sentenced to time in jail unless they decided to plead guilty; however, four of the seven women, Renata, Venice, Patreese and Terrain, did not want to plead guilty, because they knew that they were innocent. In the end, they were all sentenced to many years in jail, with Patreese getting the most time due to the knife wound, while the man was let off with no punishment.

Not only does this documentary show the levels homophobia that can be found in this world, it also shows the amount of heterosexism that is expressed. When the man first approaches the women, he expresses interest in “getting with” one of them sexually. However, once they explain that they are homosexual, the man turns dark and starts threatening them by saying things like “I’ll f*** you straight!” Sadly, this issue is not just shown through the words of the man, but also through the media. The women were portrayed as “A Pack of Killer Lesbians” and “Lesbian Wolf Pack”; their gender identity was seen as a part of the reason that they attacked the man, and the judge did a very good job of expressing his homophobic side in the way the case played out.

Dorosh-Walther does a great job of showing the intersectionality between gender, race and sexuality as a lot of evidence and facts about the event were either ignored or pushed aside by the judge and jury (who were all white citizens), which would not have happened if the case was about four white women. Due to this, the film goes even further as to show the levels of white supremacy/privilege that is prevalent today. Since many citizens and viewers of the news may not have seen behind the lies of the headlines and the talk shows, it is clear that, as Peggy McIntosh says in White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack, “…Whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege… White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.” (1)

Overall, this documentary does an outstanding job of going behind the lights and cameras of the media, to produce a film that can show the true story following one of many cases that involve white power structures and people of colour on trial. Dorosh-Walther creates a film that follows directly the wise words of Peggy McIntosh once again: “To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions.” (5)

newjersey4One scene that I found to be very important and shocking in this film was a short scene near the end which involved the case of Patreese using her knife in self-defense and stabbing the man’s abdomen. Her lawyer had decided to go back through the files and medical statements to try and determine a way that Patreese could be let out earlier than anticipated. What she found was disgusting. It was proven that the “stab wound” that was shown to the judge and jury was not the actual wound. What was shown to them was the scar from an appendectomy that the man had, and the actual wound was a tiny cut lower down on his stomach that did not need stitches or any medical treatment. Patreese’s lawyer then approached the judge, and he admitted to knowing the information already, however would not change Patreese’s jail time. When I saw this, I was in shock. I could not believe that the judge had kept this information to himself and didn’t act on it. It makes me wonder what other information was fraud, or kept from the jury throughout their trials. Information was withdrawn in order to put length to their jail time, and thus showing the homophobia, racism and sexism of the judge/other legal authorities.

Attending this festival, and particularly this film, was an amazing experience for me. It opened my eyes to look at the world in a more diverse and complicated way. I loved interacting with others who attended, and discussing topics of interest between all of us. This festival was a great way to bring people together from a variety of places, and to create an open, safe community for everyone. I would definitely attend again!

~ tlapp30

References

Free the New Jersey 4. 2014.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.” (1989): 1-5 Web. 8 Feb. 2015<https://www.isr.umich.edu/home/diversity/resources/white-privilege.pdf&gt;.

Out In The Night. Perf. Renata Hill, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson. 2014. Film.

Out In The Night. 2014.