(Release Info London schedule; September 25th, 2020, Curzon Home Cinema)
7-year-old Sasha has always known she's a little girl, even though she was born a boy. As society fails to treat her like the other children her age, in her daily life at school, dance lessons or birthday parties; her supportive family leads a constant battle to make her difference understood and accepted. When she grows up, she will be a girl. This is something Sasha has dreamed of since childhood. Her family soon realises how serious she's. In addition to interviews with the parents, who acknowledge their daughter as such without hesitation, the film depicts the family’s tireless struggle against a hostile environment as well as their everyday lives. We see Sasha at play, practising ballet and during a visit to a therapist specialising in gender identities. At school, Sasha is not allowed to appear as a girl but must wear gender-specific boys clothes. Tenderly filmed images and close-ups of Sasha’s face create a gentle intimacy. Sometimes, it's as if she does not understand why everything is so complicated and why she cannot simply be what she's and wear what she wants.
Sasha is not at all a child who has no idea what she's doing. Nobody at school knows her bedroom is a little girl's room. It's like a secret room. By allowing us in, she demonstrates a level of trust; she's letting us into her life. There's another time, too, when we're in her bedroom. We realize she isn't paying any attention to us. She's playing on her bed, leaning over the side with her head upside down; as if to say, 'Yes, I'll let you watch me here, in this private space'. The camera is with her, as close as possible, at her eye level, and that's what allows us to create a bond of empathy and to understand what she's going through. The violence that Sasha endures, we feel it very strongly. With regard to the hospital, even if the location seems cold and medicine attempts to rationalize everything, the child psychiatrist shows unbelievable humanity in her approach to Sasha. Her role is to help Sasha articulate what she's experiencing and what she's feeling deep inside. It cannot be rushed. If she has nothing to say, it's not a problem. It's a support structure that's put in place for years and that Sasha can call on for help when she needs to. There's no obligation. Everything can be reversed.
When we first meet Karine, Sasha's mother, she's at the end of her rope, exhausted by years of looking for someone who could help her understand and support Sasha. Where she lives, in north-eastern France, there's nobody she can talk to about it. The few people who might be able to guide her, such as the family doctor, have so little training on the subject that their statements tend to be blaming rather than helping, not out of mean-spiritedness but ignorance. It can make them dangerous. There's a department for children with gender dysphoria at 'Robert Debré Children's Hospital''in Paris. For her, it's a glimmer of hope. The first consultation with the child psychiatrist is a long and moving scene. It provides both an overview of everything the family has withstood for so many years and a beginning-point for the acknowledgement of Sasha's suffering. Karine asks questions that have been preying on her mind for years. 'Did I do something wrong'? 'Was it the right decision to let her dress as a little girl'? The child psychiatrist's answers are so liberating. In a few minutes, years of guilt and anxiety evaporate. Karine is ready to go to any lengths to defend her child. Her battle is non-negotiable. Any opposition, any attack, any judgments regarding Sasha will always provoke a scathing reply from her. What's admirable about Karine is that she's also aware of the collateral damage. She knows that a child like Sasha monopolizes her attention. She has, therefore, less time for her other children. She actually tries to explain to them that the fight demands sacrifices. Karine sees that as Sasha having made real progress in her need for affirmation. It's hard, but that's how it's.
This documentary is about transexuals in France. As early as 3-4 years old, Sasha senses deep inside that she's a little girl. That gives ue pause because usually, when the subject of transidentity comes up, it's assimilated with adolescence, with puberty, the moment when the body changes. Sasha's account opens our eyes to the fact that it could occur much earlier in the life of a trans person. We also realize that the identity issue is totally separate from questions of sexuality that crop up in adolescence. It's essential to tell the story of a contemporary child experiencing those identity issues to get a better grasp of these questions. The approach is, on the contrary, completely respectful of the people concerned, and the film aimed to raise awareness and acceptance of transidentity. But there's no fantastic level of acceptance in our society. The film depicts the family as a truly benign cocoon. They're a solid, united family. There's a bond of unconditional love between them, which you perceive without filters. Most likely, it's due to what Sasha is going through: her family has come together around her to protect her. The film captures this unity by showing the house as a kind of bubble in which Sasha and her loved ones are safe to live their lives. There's a greater sense of threat around it, on the outside, at school, in ballet class or just on the street. The film shows how the family must seek out and identify allies. The lack of people they can turn to is striking. The educational slant of the film is deliberate.
"Little Girl" paints the touching portrait of an seven-year-old who questions her gender and who, in doing so, provokes some disturbing reactions from a society still stuck in a biologically deterministic boy-girl way of thinking. The film features people fighting what they've been assigned to do or be. School can be a traumatic setting if you're unable to find affirmation, unable to find allies and friends. It's a smokescreen. Beyond Sasha's transidentity, the film is about what it means to be different as a child. What does it mean to grow up and make a life for yourself outside of society's norms? Life is possible for a trans person, without it being a drama or a tragedy.