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Review: Game Girls
by Becky Tan

Alina Skrzeszewska, France/Germany

Director Skrzeszewska emigrated as a child from Poland to Munich, Germany. She studied in Berlin and then at the California Institute of the Arts near Los Angeles, an area which so inspired her that she made two documentary films about it: Songs from the Nickel and Traviesos (short film). She obviously can’t get enough of this poor area of Los Angeles. In January 2014 she helped set up the Expressive Arts Workshop where homeless women could come to discuss their situation and look for solutions. This has proved to be successful and also provided her with the basis of her third documentary, Game Girls. Here we meet mostly black, many very fat, women living on Skid Row, a section of Los Angeles and supposedly the homeless capital of the USA. Skrzeszewska shows these women all in the same “game”: living on the street, while smuggling and dealing in drugs or anything else they can sell. They face the police and eventually jail. They discuss their difficult childhoods with parents who provided no examples for a better life.  Alcohol is a problem. Gradually Skrzeszewska zooms in, to focus on two women:  Teri and Tiahna, a lesbian couple. 

Game Girls showed in the Panorama Documentary section of the Berlinale. There was great interest as my cinema was almost completely sold out. I was interested because it was one of the few films about the USA to show at the Berlinale. Director Skrzeszewska came onstage for Q & A. She is especially proud of her workshop for poor women and still travels back and forth between Germany and the US. From my viewpoint as an American from a small town in the Middle West, USA, Skrzeszewska presents these poor, African-American women as an isolated tribe facing extinction. This isn’t South America or India or Africa; there are many opportunities in the U.S. Get a life is my reaction. The film language is English, but the director seems to think that this is some unfamiliar black slang, and therefore requires English subtitles. Perhaps non-native-English speakers would have a problem. I think subtitles are unnecessary when much of the vocabulary is limited to short expressions of “nigger,” “bitch,” “motherfucker,” “shit,” etc.