Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hosted by ‘The Fabulous Picture Show’ at the Everyman Cinema Club in London, the debut screening of 17 Filles, or 17 Girls, was just one of the latest international art-house films to screen fresh from this years Cannes Festival. Indeed, I was one of the lucky bunch who got to be a part of this exciting event and even got to meet the fantastic feminine duo Delphine and Muriel Coulin who co-directed the film for a Q&A afterwards. The film is based on an unlikely but true-event that saw 18 American high-school girls form an alleged “pregnancy pact” that took place in a small derelict fishing town in Massachusetts, USA. Equally this film is set in an impoverished town in the west of France where the two sisters grew up. Both sisters were adamant that the film is aimed to capture some “strange familiarity” of living in an indigent location which reminded them of their time growing up. Delphine commented on how she wanted to re-create the confines of being a teenager, especially a young woman, growing up with a lack of incentive and purpose in early life: “As a young girl living in a small town, you are not given much motivation to do anything special with your life, I wanted to show the lengths these girls would go to in order to create a real change in their lives”. “No-one can stop a girl who dreams” is just one of the mottos displayed in this film. The main protagonist, Camille, who is unlike your usual teen-mum figure that has grown up rough therefore looks rough, is instead modelesque in her qualities whose conscious decision to keep her baby radiates a degree of coolness across her friendship group and even her school, turning her into some kind of role-model to be looked up to. All of a sudden, having a baby becomes the latest trend and in needy desperation to catch-up with her friends, one of the girls, Clementine, even pays a fellow student a small sum of 30 Euros to sleep with her. The scene is almost satiric as she approaches her suitor coming out of the bathroom and begs him to sleep with her. At only 16 years of age, one does wonder what these girls were thinking. The sisters capture the shocking-reality of teen-mothers with scenes of smoking, drinking and partying whilst pregnant. As a viewer, you become a part of the narrative as we constantly try to figure out what it is exactly these girls are trying to prove.

Yet with some aesthetically beautiful imagery, the essence of the female body is portrayed in its upmost purity that is so rarely seen in today’s mainstream media. Along with this, the change of the female form is so excellently conveyed throughout the film. Flat stomachs gradually turn into the floating bellies of the pregnant ladies as they take part in antenatal swimming exercises. Though we do not see much of any male counter-parts in this film, the dynamics of female friendship groups are brought to our attention with issues such as jealousy, peer pressure, and, popularity, featuring as the silent motive for many of their actions and all brings a very real and familiar representation of being a young woman.

This was a really great film and if you enjoy a bit of art-house and don’t mind subtitles then this a definitely a must-see!

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