Like the Girls Who Wear Pink

By Jennifer Msumba | Documentary
A bullied girl discovers a time-traveling video from her future self.

A video travels back in time to 1981, where a young girl struggles with feeling out of place, misunderstood and bullied by the world around her. The video is filled with a warning about the difficult path the girl faces in the future, but also hope and encouragement that she will find her place in the world eventually.

Written and directed by Jennifer Msumba, who also takes the lead role in front of the camera, this film short is a combination of personal documentary, video essay and social polemic. Woven throughout it, though, is a profound expression of what it means to be a neurodiverse person in the world, with all its challenges and gifts.

The concept is essentially a frame, packaging a wealth of stories and insights into the package of a time travel video capsule. Emotionally, it's a letter to a younger self from their wiser, older version in the future. Many of us have mulled over the advice we'd give ourselves in our youth, but Msumba's perspective is unique, as she details the obstacles and heartaches she has faced for being different. She is someone with autism, and many of her experiences in the mental health system that aimed to "treat" her ended up creating their trauma. So in many ways, Msumba's advice to her younger self is also a cautionary tale, warning her about the callousness of a world that stigmatizes her.

Though the film is open about the difficulties of autism in a world that doesn't always understand this invisible condition, that honesty is balanced with a positive, upbeat and quick-moving visual style that's guaranteed to boost viewers' serotonin with its joyfulness with cheerful colors and vibrant sets shot in bright light. This optimistic look and feel also translates into the energy of Msumba's performance. Her words and performance have a memorable flair, full of rhythm, vivid detail and authentic emotion, and the film is set up to support the rich text of the script. It's not a conventional narrative, though Msumba's script tells us some stories. Instead, it becomes more of a" multifaceted portrait of one neurodiverse person, painted with many colors, tones and textures.

"Like the Girls Who Wear Pink" has a core of honesty that makes the film consistently compelling and often quite moving, and Msumba has a presence that's winning, infectiously joyful and inspirational. Ultimately, her time-traveling video becomes a guide to becoming your own advocate, cheerleader and champion, a paean to self-acceptance and self-love in the face of adversity -- and relevant to anyone who has felt alone and isolated and in need of encouragement and hope.

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