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Film review: The Fits

IN THE ZONE: Royalty Hightower, who plays Toni in 'The Fits'

THE FITS is a vivid exploration into the lives of pre-teens, all told from the point of view of a young boxing enthusiast-turned-dancer who becomes mesmerised with the glamorous older girls who run a local dance troupe.

The appeal of the film is boosted by authentic performances from child actors, who portray young girls that begin to find themselves in some kind of physical rapture after dancing. These raptures, or 'fits' begin to be regarded as a mystical part of every day life, rather than something to fear.

Watch the trailer below:

The Voice spoke to director Anna Rose Holmer about the inspiration and process behind The Fits:

How long was the production process for The Fits?

It was very fast, we made The Fits from grant money and due to limited resources we had a shorter timeline. We created the film just under a year after pitching it at Venice Film Festival.

As you made it with a limited budget, did you feel that limited your process or that if you had a bigger budget you would've been able to more?

It was a little bit of a combination. I think that because we didn’t have time to second guess ourselves, we ended up growing over our imperfections and we just had to go for it and trust each other. I think that energy kind of shows up on screen.

How essential do you think it is to grow up alongside other women and allow that to help you find your femininity and identity?

I think it’s necessary not just for adolescence but also in adulthood. There’s such power in a group of women that can sometimes terrify you, but when you first become a part of a group of women and when you navigate that, you actually can become very empowered by it.

There’s an eerie essence to The Fits, as each girl becomes possessed by something and no one knows what or why. What inspired that?

I think there’s this beautiful element of The Fits, and that is that all things can’t be explained, and that’s what the eeriness represents. There isn’t an answer to everything and that is something that is quite spiritual and ethereal about opening up the possibility that there is this question that we can’t answer.

The main character, Toni, struggles with going from childhood to teenage hood, which many can relate to. Did her character stem from your own struggles or someone you knew?

Well I’m pretty much Toni, but so is my editor who I worked with on The Fits. We share a lot of memories and experiences, even though we're from very different backgrounds. Like us, Toni is quiet, but just because she is quiet doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a point of view or that she’s weak.

We also have very formative relationships with our brothers, and wanted to depict that kind of positive relationship on screen.

The first part of the film has very minimal dialogue. What does that represent?

I think there’s a difference between being quiet and being silent, and I think her character says a lot. Toni’s character carriers the film and is the one the audience follows, and there’s different ways to empower your characters and she does that through the way she moves her body. It just shows that you can assert yourself physically and there’s so many ways to be present and connect, and it doesn’t always have to be verbally.

How was it to work with a cast of non-professional actors and how do you feel that benefitted the film?

I really wanted to work with a team that knew each other and I felt that group dynamic was key and it would be difficult to recreate. So we wanted to collaborate with a dance team and I was blown away by there professionalism and they were so generous with their time. I also think working with kids is just fun! They bring laughter, happiness and I think you can often forget that when you're working on a set

There’s not many coming of age stories from a black female perspective, so what inspired you to tell that story?

It was interesting because the script didn’t start out as an all black cast or to tell a particular black female coming of age story, until we found a few kids on YouTube and we wanted to collaborate.

We really examined ourselves and asked ourselves what's the objective? How can we be cautious about body politics, gender and female identity? And this really enriched narrative. So it was a process that we took pretty seriously and we had to examine if we could accomplish all that.

Also I think the fact that my team of writers all come from different backgrounds contributes to it, and realising that to do right we're going to need to incorporate more voices.

The Fits is now on release is selected cinemas across the UK. The DVD will be on sale from 20 March.

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