Director Alina Skrzeszewska has a strong passion for documenting people on the margins of society, particularly impoverished communities in Los Angeles, California. Game Girls is her third project about Skid Row, an area of Downtown Los Angeles that constitutes the USA’s largest concentration of homeless people. Tackling the neighbourhood’s homelessness crisis has shamefully been an issue since the 1930s and, presently, an estimated 2,500 people make up this population.
Fundamentally, Game Girls is a love story about Teri Rogers and Tiahna Vince, a homeless couple trying to survive in Skid Row. Skrzeszewska doesn’t opt for an interventionist approach; rather, she wonderfully takes a step back and allows the subjects to drive the thematic narrative of the film.
The work presents a raw depiction of poverty, refreshingly providing context for why women end up in the community. The director’s Skid Row is a place of survival, with many women driven to the area to escape abuse and who are stuck due to mental health and addiction issues, as well as the opportunity to make illicit money. Key points of the documentary focus on the cooperation and love within the homeless community, which, to some extent, provide solace for residents.
There is juxtaposition in how the neighbourhood is presented as an escape, but also a trap, with Teri stating that “Skid Row is poison” and aspiring to leave and establish her own business with Tiahna by her side. Regarding the juxtapositions in the couple’s relationship, there’s a lot of love between them and adorable moments caught on camera, but Game Girls’ commitment to rawness means it does not shy away from depicting their mutual emotion and physical abuse as well.
Game Girls is a fascinating watch and good exploration of the practical effects of deprivation. There are times when the filmmaker’s exploration of the wider context of poverty can swamp Teri and Tianha’s story, however, this could be seen as part of her commitment to framing Skid Row as its own character.
With that said, Alina Skrzeszewska has crafted an immensely engaging and moving documentary. It passionately and masterfully depicts duality of struggle and love, as well as the practical effects of poverty on the psyche.
Game Girls does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
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