The RIDM (Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal) will be a little different this year, and not entirely because of a pandemic and an all online format. What’s changed is the categorization into thematic sections.
The On Demand format allows for anytime-viewing from November 12th until December 2nd, but in this case, there are certain time limits. Each week showcases a different group of films which can only be viewed within that week.
Cinetalk is already tearing through the first week’s worth. Petite Fille (Little Girl) is our gateway into the festival, though it is showing a little bit later.
Sébastien Lifshitz (Adolescentes, 2019) has again documented a coming of age story. Only, this time the child in question is much younger. At just eight years of age, little Sasha is making a transition most adolescents don’t face. But similarities exist. Bullying, teasing, rejection, and high emotions are a lot for such a young one (and her parents) to handle, especially because she has been preparing for it since she was four.
At that time, Sasha was panic-stricken when her mother told her she’d never grow up to be a girl. When Mom was pregnant, she wished she was having a girl, but was disappointed to learn she was carrying a boy. When she realized her child was trans, she blamed herself for inadvertently putting her own will onto her child.
Before really being able to fully address her own confusion and sadness, Mum has to immediately become Sasha’s warrior. What a chance that Sasha’s classmates did not react too adversely to the news. What was more disheartening were grown adults being dismissive and rude. Teachers and school admin accuse both mother and daughter of being crazy. They insist they bring in a doctor’s note, (like with any illness that might take a child out of school for a day or two). Without a certificate proving Sasha would now be recognized as female, the rigid school system refuse to refer to the student with feminine pronouns.
The sadness wells up silently in Sasha’s eyes, even while she tells her doctors and therapists things aren’t so bad at school. Lifshitz shows he has an intimacy with the family without being invasive. The staging and cinematography have a nearly non-documentary feeling. It’s almost like watching a fictional movie with a moving script. Only it’s real life, and Mom is revolted that because Sasha’s paperwork says gender: male, her daughter is deprived of the childhood she deserves. Gendered schoolbags, colors, toys are still the norm in France.
If the teachers don’t set the right example of acceptance, how will the students do any better? Adults are supposed to be role models for the burgeoning youth. Through Sasha’s transition, her mother hopes they can help change the way people think.
Petite Fille – On Demand, November 19th – 25th, 2020