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“An Unusually High Concentration of Boarding Schools” | Shuchi Talati, Girls Will Be Girls

Two Malaysian girls ride a scooter during dusk.Girls Will Be Girls, courtesy of Sundance Institute

Films are made of and from places: the locations they are filmed in, the settings they are meant to evoke, the geographies where they are imagined and worked on. What place tells its own story about your film, whether a particularly challenging location that required ingenuity, or a map reference that inspired you personally, politically, or creatively?

Our film Girls Will Be Girls (World Cinema Dramatic Competition) is a sexual awakening story set in the Indian Himalayan foothills, in an area which is known for its stunning views and an unusually high concentration of boarding schools.

As a young girl, I loved books set in boarding schools. The friendships and the nighttime fun, away from adult supervision, felt like an escape from my life. When I was 13, I visited a real-life boarding school for a dance competition. We were hosted in dorms and I slept on the bottom bunk of a metal bunk-bed. As I lay in bed, etched in the metal above me were messages, records of feuds, love and heartbreak. It made me so curious about the girls who had slept there.

Perhaps I imagined they were freer than me. Though probably not. For most Indian girls, schools are the first institutions we encounter where we’re policed to protect our “virtue,” trained to be obedient, and ashamed of our bodies and sexuality. Despite this, many fierce, funny girls I knew managed to subvert and circumvent the rules.

In Girls Will Be Girls, I wanted to write about these subversive women. The boarding school in the film is on a mountain top and has open architecture; but we quickly discover how closed and controlled it is. Our cinematographer, Jih-E Peng, tried to reflect this in rigid, oppressively symmetrical frames. 

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.
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