Little Girl *****
Director: Sébastien Lifshitz
7 year-old Sasha has always known that she’s a little girl, even though she was born a boy. It’s the summer holidays, but as she prepares to go back to school, her doting mother is fraught with worry about how the world will react when she returns presenting as female. In this remarkable documentary, we observe this family through this painful and tumultuous period as decisions are made that will affect Sasha for the rest of her life.
Director Lifshitz has developed a remarkable amount of trust with his subjects, capturing the reality of their lives so adeptly that if it wasn’t for the direct to-camera interviews, you would question whether this is a documentary at all. The family are entirely comfortable letting him see moments of intimacy and emotion, meaning that we observe this story from the unflinching perspective of both parents, her older brother and through the eyes of Sasha herself.
Scored with a stunning classical soundtrack, we see beautiful moments of childhood innocence shot with the on-screen composition of Terence Malick or David Lean. Lifshitz takes this personal story and gives it the big-screen treatment it deserves. We observe Sasha through the turning of the seasons as her hair grows and she becomes more comfortable in her own skin. We are shown appointments with doctors and psychologists, where profundity abounds and we see Sasha dealing with issues that are far above her age with delicate dignity and poise.
Sasha’s mother is so astonishingly honest, sharing her reservations and dreams, peppered with anecdotes that the camera has not seen. And though this film is without question The Sasha Show, its breakout star is her mother, who demonstrates a flawless example of completely perfect parenting. The love amongst this family is palpable and Sasha is so supported, but they cannot protect her from how children in school react and the wider prejudice of society as a whole, which is heartbreaking to witness.
Just as Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy was pitch perfect in its depiction of a transgender child, this too skilfully balances this enormously emotional moment of a family’s life with the nuanced tenderness of sympathetic filmmaking that manages to never sensationalise their journey. Sasha is such a beautifully gentle child that when she is reduced to tears by her situation, your heart will not fail to melt as her protective mother does all she can to help her. This is documentary filmmaking at its very best and Little Girl should be seen by absolutely everyone who has a child.