Program 4 – First Girl I Loved
USA / 2016 / 91 min. | Directed by: Kerem Sanga
Independent and quietly confident 17-year-old Anne (Dylan Gelula, TV’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) suddenly finds the routine softball game she’s photographing for the school yearbook much more interesting when beautiful Sasha (Brianna Hildebrand) comes into focus. Within the ruse of an interview, Anne stirs Sasha’s desire to get to know her on a deeper level. Meanwhile, her best friend Clifton (Mateo Arias) is initially slow to grasp that the object of Anne’s affection is a girl, and when he figures out the attraction is romantic, he does everything in his power to prevent it from blossoming. Clueless that Clifton is outraged because he has a secret crush on her, Anne forges ahead with what she thinks is a burgeoning first love, while Sasha begins to doubt her own instincts.
An award-winner at this year’s Sundance film festival, First Girl I Loved is both more than a love triangle and more than a coming-out story. It explores the complexities of discovering and expressing who we are, pitted against the skewed expectations of all those involved. The unusual, non-sequential structure reveals how the characters (like all of us) perceive and remember a common experience very differently, yet each thinks that they alone know the truth.
Anne, Sasha and Clifton individually believe that their feelings for each other are mutual, when in fact they are quite different. The story finds deeper layers by examining ideas of sexual fluidity as well as when and with whom young people have the right to form romantic attachments.
The compelling, authentic Dylan Gelula and her co-stars – the lovely Brianna Hildebrand and the energetic Mateo Arias – could easily use First Girl I Loved as a calling card for future work. Kerem Sanga (award winning writer-director of The Young Kieslowski) gives us another audience favorite: a relatable and sensitive drama that has a rhythm all its own, like we are watching it from a porch swing on a warm, summer day.
— Adrienne Ehrlich
Audience Award: BEST OF NEXT Sundance Film Festival Audience Award: ALTERED STATES: NEW DIRECTIONS IN AMERICAN CINEMA RiverRun International Film Festival Independent Visions Award: BEST PERFORMANCE Dylan Gelula, Sarasota Film Festival Official Selecton: Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival Official Selecton: Qfest Houston LGBT Film Festival Official Selecton: Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival