Film Reviews

Review: ‘Because We Are Girls’

Hot Docs/DOXA 2019


Because We Are Girls
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir.: Baljit Sangra
Programme: Persister (World Premiere)

Because We Are Girls begins with three adult sisters, and a secret. Though we know something has happened to them, Baljit Sangra gives space for these women to be themselves, enjoying the company of family, before letting us know that they have come together for a much more dire reason. Having been sexually abused as children by a male cousin, they are taking him to court to seek justice and put an end to his ongoing crimes.

Sangra’s film is definitely not enjoyable. With the harrowing details of sexual violence, and an in-depth look at the repercussions later in life, the film is utterly heartbreaking. But Sangra is careful in her depiction of sexual abuse. She ensures that the survivors have space to express their lives outside of trauma, while equally exploring how trauma can impact the innocuously quotidian. Seeking the support of their family, who are not always capable of giving it, the sisters articulate the nature of their traumas, the stigmas that surround them, and their individual needs to cope and heal.

But this is a film we’ve seen before. Survivors share the explicit details of the violence they experienced, they “come out” to the people around them, and are laid bare and vulnerable in an attempt to seek a justice that will, regardless, not heal the harm that has already been done. Often, these films are described as “necessary.” But it’s difficult to watch something like this, multiple times, in different forms, and ignore the fact that “necessary” has not changed. It’s not a criticism of Because We Are Girls specifically — the film does a capable job at what it’s doing — but the repetition of this genre of sexual violence documentary speaks to a stagnation in society, where we are not progressing when it comes to helping and protecting the survivors of assault.

Because We Are Girls screens:
-Wed, May 1 at 6:15 PM Cineplex Scotiabank
-Thurs, May 2 at 1:00 PM at Cineplex Scotiabank
-Fri, May 3 at 6:00 PM at TIFF Lightbox

It also opens this year’s DOXA Film Festival.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!