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Girls Don't Fly

filmmaker : Monika Grassl
Composer : David Rich
Germany, 2016
Production : INDI Film GmbH, Mischief Films
English, Ewe


Lydia, Tina, Hamdiatu and Esther… A dozen young Ghanaian women sign up for the first pilot training school for women in West Africa, where aviation remains a man’s business. They dream of learning to fly, and in this way also rise above their modest social backgrounds. A British instructor promises them emancipation and a bright future. But between the airstrip far from their villages, the hangar and the classroom, the young women are subjected to almost military conditions and oppressive supervision. Little by little, they realise that, to make their dream come true (but is it really their dream?), there is a high price to pay including their self-esteem, their identity and their dignity.

Tënk's film review

By treating his student pilots as silly little girls, the man who claims he’ll get these women away from “the back of beyond” with his Churchillian bullying and spiel eventually ends up losing the  power struggle he’s imposed.  With every word and gesture, this unashamed colonialist oozes the caricatured personality of the Good Whiteman who could be straight out of Tavernier’s “Coup de Torchon” or Annaud’s “Black and White in Colour”.  And it’s to Monika Grassl’s credit that she has managed to capture in her film, largely based on accompanying observation, the paternalistic practices and language still used. A discourse – here from a benevolent but phoney NGO – whose terms are still employed even in countries that were formerly colonised. But in the end, shame changes sides: as extras embarrassed by a grotesque game of loaded dice, the girls run away, and the viewers run with them.

Jürgen Ellinghaus

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Monika Grassl

Monika Grassl is a documentary filmmaker and editor for cinema and television. After writing a thesis on the film genre “documentary”, she went and studied in Germany. In 2013, she made her first feature film about marginalized people advocating a return to wildlife in the south of France. In 2015 she directed two short films and a cinema advertisement. In 2016, she finished her second feature film, "Girls Don’t Fly", which won the Best Documentary Award at the Max Ophüls Film Festival (Germany) and the Salé Women’s International Film Festival. In parallel, Monika Grassl worked as a researcher on the history of the German documentary film. She is currently working on her new film and continues her career as a cinema and television editor.

Other films in the collection: First reels