Would You Rather (Tu Préfères)
Part of Sundance’s Indie Series strand, Arte France’s Would You Rather (Tu Préfères) plays across ten episodic chunks ranging between five to ten minutes. It is based on a fictional series by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret, and depicts the life and mischief of two banlieu-dwelling teenage girls, Djeneba (Fanta Kebe) and Shaï (Shirel Nataf). They goof around after school, flirt with boys, and fall out with their families. It is the kind of narrative viewers are familiar with, given the social realist treatment in Rocks and Girlhood. The stakes here are appealingly small, with camerawork switching between a limber handheld style and flat editing, which makes it look like a reality show.
Sadly the production’s format as a web series holds it back. The feted app Quibi has shut down, proving that the appetite for micro-content is non-existent. Where will this find a home in its minimised episodes? A viral sensation like the Norwegean show Skam was based around the episodes dropping at the same time that they take place, pulling the viewer closer to the social media feeling. There is no such gimmick for Would You Rather.
The trend is indeed for contemporary film and television to utilise the visuals of social media, which is heavily relied on to show the slow disintegration of Djenba and Shaï’s relationship. Where they were once inseparable, now their matriculation into different schools is reprioritising their friendships and goals in life. It is heartfelt and well tempered, avoiding the trap of exploiting the girls for sensationalist plot-lines, which both gritty dramas and television soaps are prone to doing. As the girls’ secrets, allegiances and desires come out into the open, the visual style reflects the modern world’s disregard for privacy. Quietly political, but never losing sight of its central relationship, Would You Rather is a triumph. If only its instalments were longer.
Would You Rather does not have a UK release date but can be watched in French for free on Arte.tv.
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