• Written By 10 Melanin Team

10 Indie Coming of Age Films About Girlhood

In the 90's there seemed to be plenty of coming of age films that illustrated what life was like growing up Black however they often focused on just the male perspective, but in more recent years this seems to be finally changing. This is great news for Black girls everywhere and although the narrative remains that Black people especially teenage girls are struggling, there does seem to be some more positive and "normal" stories being told.




10. Selah And The Spades

Black female cast from indie coming of age film Selah And The Spades

Amazon Prime

Haldwell School is a prestigious east coast boarding school for the wealthy and bright, however it quickly becomes apparent there is more to this school than meets the eye. To the shame of Headteacher Banton (Jesse Williams) the school is in fact more run by the students than the teachers. Things take a dark turn when new girl Paloma (Celeste O'Connor) arrives and is taken under the wing of popular girl Selah (Lovie Simone) who is head of the faction The Spades while looking to replace herself as she is soon to graduate. Resembling a mixture of St. Trinian's and Heathers but with more of an arthouse style it's best to try and not to take this film too seriously and just enjoy it for what it is.




9. First Match

Black female lead Monique (Elvire Emanuelle) from indie coming of age film First Match

Netflix

Monique (Elvire Emanuelle) is a troubled teenager being moved from foster home to foster home after her mother dies and her father is in prison. When Darrell (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is released however he is distant and inattentive, loathing the responsibility of being a parent. To impress her father Monique joins the school boy's wrestling team and while it begins to give her the discipline that she sorely needs and her fathers attention, unknown to Monique her father has an ulterior motive.




8. Rafiki

Black female lead Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) and Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) from indie coming of age film Rafiki

Wanuri Kahiu

Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) and Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) live two very different lives. Kena is a well behaved tomboy who works in her fathers shop and plays football with her male friends and has humble dreams of becoming a nurse. Ziki on the other hand is girly but bold with a bright colourful hair and is anything but traditional as she prefers to spends her days having fun dancing with her friends. It's a sort of modern day version of Romeo + Juliet, their fathers are competing against each other in a political race so when they start hanging out it's forbidden and when they start to develop stronger feelings it's forbidden even more due to the fact that it is illegal to be gay in Nairobi.




7. Night Comes On

Black female lead Angel (Dominique Fishback) from indie coming of age film Night Comes On

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Freshly released from juvenile prison Angel (Dominique Fishback) who is homeless and alone, has only one thing on her mind .. where her father is. She teams up with her 10 year old sister, Abby (Tatum Marilyn Hall) to help her with her quest and they embark on a road trip which in turn helps them both come to terms with their mother's murder. Angel however has to make a decision about what path she wants to choose, one of revenge or sisterhood.




6. The Fits

Black female lead Toni (Royalty Hightower) from indie coming of age film The Fits

Oscilloscope Laboratories

11 year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower) is a tomboy who trains with her brother Jermaine at a boxing gym, one day she catches the sight of the girl's drill dance team in the next room and her brother encourages her to try out for the them. However a mystery illness begins to plague the team causing seizures, starting with the older girls. They're told not to drink the water (possibly a reference to the flint water crisis) but these seizures continue anyway. Quickly the girls become fascinated with the fits and start to wish it would happen to themselves. This is an odd but mesmerising story about friendship, growing up but most importantly "fitting" in.




5. Premature

Black female cast from indie coming of age film Premature

IFC Films

Set during the summer in New York, 17 year old Ayanna (Zora Howard) is getting ready to go to college in the fall to study writing. After finding out a boy she was seeing has a girlfriend, love is the last thing on Ayanna's mind. One night she meets an older man named Isaiah (Joshua Boone) who is music producer and they are instantly drawn together and begin a summer romance. However problems begin to arise due to Ayanna having trust issues and Isaiah not being as perfect as he seems.




4. Pariah

Black female leads Alike (Adepero Oduye) Laura (Pernell Walker) from indie coming of age film Pariah

Focus Features

Alike (Adepero Oduye) preferably known as Lee is a 17 year-old girl who is well aware she's gay but hasn't yet told her parents because they already disapprove of the way she dresses, the music she likes and her out and proud friend Laura (Pernell Walker). Wanting to explore her sexuality more and inevitably lose her virginity Laura proposes hooking up with a girl at the gay club they visit often but Lee wants something more meaningful. Meanwhile Lee's mother (Kim Wayans) thinks her friend's daughter Beena (Aasha Davis) who is much more girly will have a "positive" influence on her daughter ... however it has the opposite effect when Beena and Lee spark an unlikely friendship and develop feelings for each-other.




3. Jinn

Black female leads Summer (Zoe Renee) and Jade (Simone Missick) from indie coming of age film Pariah

Sweet Potato Pie

Summer's (Zoe Renee) mother (Simone Missick) is a popular meteorologist on TV who converts to Islam in order to find meaning in her life after her breakup from summer's father (Dorian Missick). With Summer's father's encouragement she is open to learning more about Islam as a faith and possibly converting but she struggles to adjust due to her modern ways of living. After befriending Tahir (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a strict muslim boy, she becomes even more immersed in islamic culture and begins to be ostracised by her friends.




2. Rocks

Black female cast including Olushola (Bukky Bakray) from indie coming of age film Rocks

British Film Institute

Olushola (Bukky Bakray) also known as Rocks is a normal teenage girl living in a London until one day her mother abandons her and her younger brother Emmanuel (D'angelou Kissiedu). In the hopes that her mother will return she tries to keep up the appearances by pretending everything is ok with the help of her friends, but struggles to do so.




1. Girlhood

Black female cast including Marieme (Karidja Touré) from indie coming of age film Girlhood

Arte France Cinéma

Marieme (Karidja Touré) is 16 years old and living in a rough neighbourhood in France with her mother, two sisters and her brother. When Marieme finds out she won't be going to high school due to her low grades like the rest of her friends, she ends up befriending a group of girls; Lady (Assa Sylla), Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh) and Fily (Marietou Touré). The girls begin to have both a negative and positive influence on Marieme, on one hand they're teaching her how to steal and fight and on the other hand they give her a sense of a belonging and ultimately the confidence she needs to take her life into her own hands.