One of the stubborn myths attached to LGBTQ persons is the belief that their sexuality or gender identity is the result of social exposure. The subject of Sebastien Lifshitz’s documentary, Little Girl, is 8-year-old Sasha, who was assigned male at birth. However, according to her mother, Sasha already identified as female before she was three, a revelation that certainly challenges the social imprint myth. It is not Lifshitz’s aim to make any kind of analysis of what constitutes transexuality. In fact, his film has no voiceover narration or into-the-camera interviews with experts. It is observational in the clearest sense. We see Sasha and her parents interacting with one another and others in the most everyday ways, and while Sasha is very aware of her status as a transexual child, she never makes much of it. It’s other people who do.
Mainly it’s the people at her school, who have always identified her as a boy since that is what the paperwork says. Sasha lives in a small city in France and her school seems to have some association with conservative Christianity. Sasha’s parents have fully accepted her as a girl and want the school to acknowledge it, but they won’t. Lifshitz doesn’t have much access to the school officials in charge of this decision, so it’s mostly through third-person explanations that we find out, and while Sasha’s mother and father characterize the school’s attitude as hostile, Sasha rarely betrays any disappointment on screen. In fact, to say she’s well-adjusted might be an understatement. She knows why Lifshitz is there and is attentive to both his needs and her own self-image. In a sense, the movie isn’t so much about Sasha as it is a movie being made by Sasha with the help of the director. She performs, in a sense, but because she is still a child the performance is artless.
Lifshitz avoids the most pressing question, which is how will Sasha navigate adolescence. Since that question is beyond his purview he is free to concentrate on the here and now, and the film’s presence is often startling. Several scenes take place in rooms with medical professionals who aren’t on hand to fix anything but rather sought by Sasha’s parents, who think they might convince the school of Sasha’s identity. The fact that Sasha herself joins in these often technical conversations proves that she already knows exactly who she is. It’s not precociousness, but rather a distinctly childlike sense of harmony with her situation. To put it another way, she’s quite a character.
In French. Now playing in Tokyo at Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551), Shinjuku Musashinokan (03-3354-5670)
Little Girl home page in Japanese
photo (c) Agat Films & CIE – Arte France – Final Cut For real – 2020