One Girl is a raw portrayal of the varied lives of four individuals living along the same meridian in South Sudan, Romania, Palestine, and Finland. Shown as part of the Children’s Film Festival Seattle at Northwest Film Forum, the crowded, cozy theater hosting the documentary already gave me a taste of the lively, intimate show I was about to see. One Girl begins with a short introduction, voiced by the girls themselves, as we see them getting ready for school. The juxtaposition of snowy hills in Finland and sun glinting off ancient rooftops in Palestine was a perfect pretext for the rest of the film. As we were personally introduced to each girl, their honesty sparked a quick connection between the viewer and the characters. It was this continuous honesty throughout the film, shared by all four girls, that made One Girl special. The girl living in Palestine brought up her restriction from Jerusalem, a city she could admire from her home but never enter. A serious topic brought up as an everyday truth affected the audience with its informal delivery. Even when this honesty was portrayed as bored sighs during a long lesson, or an awkward expression after a hit to the face with an out-of-control ball during P.E., it was all beautiful. It was their openness, their willingness to welcome us into their lives for just a day, that endeared the audience to the girls.
Sunday schoolyard in Sudan in the film One Girl. Film still by Paola Viesi.
Their knowledge of the world around them, from dreams of traveling, to talk only of the land they were walking on, was one of the many notable differences in their lives. Family connection was a prevalent theme as we viewed a family of four and then a village which seemed to be just one big community. As we followed the girls through a day, they progressed from strangers to familiar faces as they attacked problems small and large. The documentary portrayed the girls’ lives through simple stylistic choices that kept the focus on the actions occurring, keeping the settings background information. Despite the lush trees or overwhelming snow being unusual to the audience, they were commonplace to the subjects of the film and so were treated just as the girls perceived it: ordinary. It was wonderful to be immersed in so many different cultures—the clashes between which emphasized the beauty and uniqueness of the girls and the many cultures they represented—at once. It achieved an effect that prompted the viewer to continue pondering the message of the film, reflecting on their own day’s clash against the imagery they had just witnessed.