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"Girlhood": Girls and gangs in the slums of Paris 

Wednesday, Apr 1 2015
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Is there no end to your reign of terror, Boyhood? Your pernicious influence has resulted in Céline Sciamma's Bande de Filles, which awesomely translates into Girl Gang, being retitled Girlhood to lure in American audiences. (Thank goodness last year's brilliant It Felt Like Love came out long enough before Boyhood to escape similar ignominy.) Sciamma's film takes a very different tack, following Marieme (Karidja Touré), an Afro-French teenager growing up in the slums of Paris. She's told that she's only worthy of vocational school, and sees only bleak opportunities in her future while feeling condemned to remain under the thumb of her abusive older brother Djibril (Cyril Mendy). A measure of salvation comes in the form of a gang composed of fellow teenagers Lady (Assa Sylla), Fily (Mariétou Touré), and Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh). They introduce her to a world of street fighting and petty crime that offers liberation like she's never imagined, including a standout scene of the girls dancing and singing along to the entirety of Beyoncé's "Diamonds" while wearing fancy stolen dresses in a posh hotel room. But that's just the end of the first act, and she has a long road into the seemingly inescapable marginalization of poor young black women ahead of her. But Girlhood offers some hope that the fleeting moments remain.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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