Los Angeles Times

A mother puts up a fight for ‘Little Girl’

Sébastien Lifshitz’s doc follows the story of a young trans girl in a small French town.

- By Carlos Aguilar

Sasha is a girl. A girl assigned male at birth, but a girl nonetheles­s. And though this is not up for debate, as proved in director Sébastien Lifshitz’s delicately affecting documentar­y “Little Girl,” prevalent transphobi­a hinders her right to exist happily assured in her body.

From an early age Sasha asserted gender identity and now at 8 years old, in a loving and accepting family, she gets to live her truth, but only at home. School authoritie­s in her small French town resist acknowledg­ing her as who she is. In preventing her from expressing that in how she dresses and the pronouns she uses, trauma is inflicted.

Such treatment doesn’t sit well with her parents, especially her mother, the film’s actual protagonis­t. Lifshitz closely and compassion­ately chronicles the woman’s tireless trajectory to defend her child that began with profound guilt, wondering if her desire for a daughter caused Sasha’s gender dysphoria, but evolves into strenuous determinat­ion.

There’s a vital message in having an average family, initially not well versed in LGBTQ+ issues, be simply willing to love their daughter and to fight for her. Sasha herself doesn’t speak much but communicat­es her joy in free-spirited instances picking out a new bathing suit or discarding clothing that doesn’t reflect her reality. Conversely, the film is at its most heartbreak­ing when the girl cries and her mother in turn shares her tears of impotence.

With sun-kissed cinematogr­aphy by Paul Guilhaume and the constructi­on of the story in miraculous­ly intimate closeups of touching moments, “Little Girl” plays almost as if it were an aesthetica­lly verité, yet scripted fiction film from the Dardenne brothers. It’s only the handful of interviews where the family speaks to the camera that breaks the spell.

“At some point, Sasha will be attacked for being different,” says her mother with dreadful certainty while on screen a storm brews. Suffering shouldn’t be inherent to the experience of trans people; it’s a product of other people’s hurtful reactions and rejection. There’s a glimmer of hope in how most of Sasha’s young peers respect her without misgivings, but lamentably, mom’s worries in the world that we live in aren’t unfounded.

 ?? SASHA Agat Films & Cie / Arte France ?? can live her truth at home, but school officials resist acknowledg­ing her.
SASHA Agat Films & Cie / Arte France can live her truth at home, but school officials resist acknowledg­ing her.

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