COMING OF AGE THROUGH FILM
Written by Natalie Fält for Banshee Publications
Even though they are fiction, films document a sense of reality and what we see becomes a part of our truth. Representations of girls on screen have power. Images have meaning. Films can alter people’s perceptions and it is important to have narratives of girls coming of age in a time where movies and media are the primary learning medium for teens and young adults.
Movies in their nature reproduce stereotypes and this largely rings true in the depiction of girls. As a filmmaker, I consider narrative a tool or weapon to consciously construct images of women that can help us to understand the politics of difference, to represent the struggle of otherness and to celebrate what is inherently feminine. The movies of our youth have the power to define our reality and to make us not feel so damn alone. They help us discover “what is happening to me” and “why am I feeling this way” and while I look back at some of the characters and movies that shaped my adolescence, I can’t help but notice as an adult the misogynist undertones and underlying racism within.
When you think about “coming of age” most people immediately think of a sexual awakening, girls learning about their sexuality and becoming aware of their bodies and the power that they hold. In most depictions of female identifying coming of age tales women’s bodies become passive tools for male objectification and pleasure. Movies can be used to keep women out of feminism and back into a patriarchal state of mind. I’ll never forget when I first saw the movie “Carrie” and how menstrual blood was depicted as a horror. Watching that movie made me so afraid of my period that when I finally got mine I held it a secret from my mom for 6 months thinking she would be angry with me. There is a direct relationship between the movies we watch and how we live our lives. Coming of age means much more than female sexuality. It is more important to show girls critically thinking, intellectually coming of age, diversifying, and becoming exposed to the world around them. It is an exciting time in cinema with more and more female filmmakers depicting stories of girls and even though I have already "come of age" I will never tire of a movie about growing up, finding yourself, falling in love for the first time, your first existential crisis, and dealing with death and heartbreak. One of my best girlfriends who is also a filmmaker said it more eloquently than I: “Adolescence is battling the world to find your own self-worth” and I’m not sure if I will ever grow out of that feeling.
MY TOP 20 COMING OF AGE FILMs directed by women
1. Mustang (2016) dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
2. Virgin Suicides (1999) dir. Sophia Coppola
3. Clueless (1995) dir. Amy Heckerling
4. Fat Girl (2000) dir. Catherine Breillat
5. American Honey (2016) dir. Andrea Arnold
6. Little Women (1994) dir. Gillian Armstrong
7. Daughters of the Dust (1991) dir. Julie Dash
10. 36 Fillette (1998) dir. Catherine Breillat
11. Nenette et Boni (1996) dir. Clare Denis
12. Fish Tank (2009) dir. Andrea Arnold
13. Thirteen (2003) dir. Catherine Hardwicke
14. Girlhood (2014) dir. Celine Sciamma
15. All This Panic (2017) dir. Jenny Gage
16. Mi Vida Loca (1993) dir. Allison Anders
17. Ginger and Rosa (2013) dir. Sally Potter
18. LoveTrue (2016) dir. Alma Har'el
19. Pariah (2011) dir. Dee Rees
20. Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) dir. Tamara Jenkins