For the MUBIVIEWS debut film we wanted to challenge our writers by discussing the sensitive topic of gender exploration, which is so rarely seen from a child’s point-of-view. The film in question is French social realist drama TOMBOY (Céline Sciamma 2011) about a ten-year-old tomboy who passes as a boy to her friends throughout the course of the summer. The unfamiliar setting for the protagonist Laure (Zoé Héran) allows her to safely experiment with her gender through her persona Mickäel. The film tackles isolation, identity and friendship in a tone which MUBI itself describes as ‘delicate and insightful’ highlighting the innocence behind the film.
REALISING THE ISSUES
Social realism is a film genre which brings to the forefront members of society that are often underrepresented. TOMBOY (Céline Sciamma 2011) uses social realist techniques to tell a story of the exceptional nature of the everyday. From its use of handheld cameras to the contemporary setting, the film remains within the boundaries of realism. Social realism often comes hand in hand with a strong political message that the filmmaker feels must be brought to attention and, in the case of TOMBOY, it is the politics of experimenting with gender and sexuality through the perspective of a ten-year-old.
Social realism often avoids the use of a mainstream narrative structure. This is very apparent in TOMBOY where the film does not have a succinct ending; it feels as though it never leaves the second act. This can be seen as a metaphor for the experience of transgender children where they feel something is disjointed about their lives. A significant line is where Laure’s mother asks her: “Got an idea? Cos if you do, please say so, I can’t think of any. Have you got a solution?”. This is a shocking statement because it reveals that there is a lack of support system in place if Laure decided that she does in fact identify as a boy. Even if there was, it is questionable that a ten-year-old would be aware of the level of support in place for people that are transgender. The use of handheld camera positions us in relation to Laure’s childlike point-of-view so her confusion is that much more impactful.
The point the film is trying to make is that these issues need to be discussed from a young age to increases awareness and subsequently highlight the issue in society. The use of social realism as a storytelling technique really cements this and makes the film less of an entertainment piece but an honest critique of our current societal position.
Every day this week a different writer will provide their perspective on our MUBIVIEWS film and each post will be open to comments from our readers. Watch TOMBOY on mubi.com until 3 April 2017 and join the discussion!
One MUBI film, five perspectives, endless possibilities.