To the girl that looks like me is a socially relevant visual poem about the reality of being an African-American girl in the United States. The story is told through the lens of a teenage, African-American girl, Maame (Amanda Dawson-Annan), struggling with what should be one of the simplest aspects of her life: getting her hair done. Through the beauty of spoken word poetry, the difficulties of her life come to light.
The subject of race has played a significant role in the landscape of America since its inception, but possibly even more prominently over the course of the past year; it’s hard to turn a corner and not see something race-related. The fact of the matter is that the groups fighting for equality are numbing some of their audience to their message as it frequently appears throughout all forms of media. In a world where nearly everyone’s ideas regarding all topics are repeatedly shoved down your throat via social media, writer/director Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah finds a way to be subjective without being too forceful. The idea of racism resides in the back of the minds of everyone watching, lingering there, promising to rise to the surface. The tension comes in waiting for it to boil over.
The narrator of To the girl that looks like me, Maame, has a powerful presence on screen and a dominant voice that hooks viewers. As she alters her voice, draws out certain words, and aggressively expresses herself, the world understands who Maame is. She’s powerful, hungry for knowledge, and driven, but she’s also slightly ashamed of who she is. Dawson-Annan beautifully conveys all these facets of her character authentically.
“…Maame…struggl[es] with what should be one of the simplest aspects of her life…”
While it’s clearly an underlying part of this narrative, the filmmaker leans more toward analyzing one’s self rather than others. She understands that some conflict is born inside of us rather than out in the world, and the expression of that understanding creates a narrative that appeals to viewers from all walks of life. The title To the girl that looks like me feels like it intends to reach one specific person. While the poem’s lyrics are technically geared toward a particular group, the underlying message of looking within, appreciating yourself, and overcoming obstacles is one that resonates with everyone.
The film is considered experimental as it strictly uses poetry to spread its message, and its visuals can be more abstract than straightforward. Coming from a background in literature, this idea appealed greatly to me even before I began watching. Spoken word poetry is a way to express passion, anger, beauty, and a slew of other ideas and emotions that can be difficult to communicate. Here though, the director wonderfully and honestly conveys feelings that most everyone has felt at one time or another.
As To the girl that looks like me plays out and the sentiment behind what Dawson-Amoah has developed and what is being said comes to light, the beauty of its vision emerges gracefully. The words are powerful, the message important, and the way in which everything plays out is magnificent. Dawson-Amoah proves successful with her visual poem here, and she should be commended for her dedication, passion, and unique approach to filmmaking.
"…the words are powerful, the message important..."