As well as feature films such as ‘Presque Rien’ and ‘Going South’, French director Sébastien Lifshitz has made a number of highly-acclaimed studies of queer subjects. His latest documentary is an illuminating and empathetic portrait of a family with a dysphoric child as they attempt to navigate prejudice in a rural French town.
Seven-year-old Sacha was born a boy, but has always felt like a girl. The picture follows her and her family for twelve months, through school, ballet lessons, birthday parties, and crucially at sessions with a sympathetic specialist in Paris, where mother Karine is assured that Sasha’s orientation does not spring from her having longed for a daughter when she was pregnant. The specialist also produces an official medical letter for Sasha’s school, which the family hope will ease the situation with unsympathetic heads. Tellingly it’s Sasha’s fellow pupils who are far more accepting than the teachers and other grown-ups.
Keeping his camera up-close and personal to his subjects Lifshitz captures the moments of turmoil and small triumphs for the family. It’s not all documentary vérité though, with Paul Guilhaume’s photography providing lyrical, dream-like, images of Sacha dancing in the sun-dappled family garden, enjoying being her true self.
Doughty mum Karine provides the narration and takes the family lead in the sessions in Paris, but the support from Sasha’s matter-of-fact siblings and gruff dad (‘It’s not a question of ‘’tolerating,’’ it’s Sasha and that’s it’), is equally stirring. And despite an acknowledgment that Sasha’s life will not be easy, this is an uplifting tale of a normal loving family supporting each other in pressing circumstances.
Little Girl is out in cinemas and available to steam on Curzon Home Cinema now.
David Willoughby @DWill_Crackfilm