Valentine's Day

True stories about first love and self-discovery: Watch Diane Obomsawin's 'I Like Girls'

The award-winning short — about the confusion, wonder and awkwardness of a first crush — is streaming for free as a Valentine's Day gift from the NFB.

The award-winning short is streaming for free as a Valentine's Day gift from the NFB

Still from "I Like Girls" by Diane Obomsawin. (NFB)

Four real-life stories of first love. That's what you'll find in Diane Obomsawin's "I Like Girls" — and fresh from the Sundance Film Festival, the animated short is streaming for free today as a Valentine's present from the NFB.

Based on Obomsawin's 2014 graphic novel On Loving Women (originally published in French as J'aime les filles), the film takes you through four different chapters. 

Each one is told through the eyes of a different young woman, the filmmaker included — and every story is about the confusion and wonder and all-out awkwardness of experiencing a first crush.

And, most importantly, every character makes a joyful new discovery in the process.

They, per the title, like girls.

Nominated for a 2017 Canadian Screen Award, and a past winner of best short film at the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival, "I Like Girls" is Obomsawin's latest for the NFB. She talked to CBC Arts about the film.

"I Like Girls" started as a graphic novel, correct? What was the original idea that inspired the project?

Yes, it was. It was 10 stories, and I asked my friends to tell their stories.

My question wasn't when was your first love or girlfriend, but when was your first attraction to another woman? Even unconsciously.

Why that question? Because, yeah, there's a distinction.

Yeah, yeah. There is a reason.

With that question, [the story] begins early, because it's really about the first feeling of love.

I always fell in love with girls, since the age of seven years old.- Diane Obomsawin , filmmaker

I read a book by Michel Tremblay — he's a very well known author from Quebec — and he explained in the book that at the age of 16 he suddenly realized his homosexuality because he realized that for a long time, he always identified himself with the girl when he saw a couple kissing. Like in movies, for example, or on the front page of a romantic photo. He realized that it was unconscious, but he was attracted to men for a long time.

At the same time, that was a part of my [experience]. I always fell in love with girls, since the age of seven years old.

(NFB)

You share your story in the film, and like you said, you interviewed several friends, too. Why did you want to feature multiple women? 

Oh, I didn't think it was interesting [as] just my story. And it's not just about one specific story.

In the comic, it's 10, but it could be hundreds. In the film, we chose four because it's too long. It would have been a feature film if I'd used 10.

(NFB)

How did you choose who to include?

So I chose mine, by solidarity. And I chose the most romantic — the one I find the most romantic — the Mathilde one, the first one. I chose what I found to be the most goofy one — the one with Wonder Woman (laughs). I chose a little sad one — with Marie, whose parents didn't want her to be in love with a woman so they sent her to the country. I found that maybe the saddest.

Even now, when it's a time where we're accepted more [...] it's not so easy when you're young.- Diane Obomsawin , filmmaker

I was wondering about the span of ages, or generations, in the film? The stories, even the sad one you mentioned, could have happened five years ago, or 50.

"Exactly. That's interesting. The one, actually, who seems to be the youngest, she's — her name is Charlotte — she's about 70 years old now. I wanted to have girls from different generations because it changed the reality."

(NFB)

Did it? Did you find something different about when someone's sexual awakening was happening — whether it was in the '60s or the 2000s?

Yeah, but curiously, in the movie it disappears. In the comic, we see more time [pass] than in the movie.

It's mostly a movie about youth. And I think it's important that it's like this because I think you are more vulnerable — even now, when it's a time where we're accepted more. Still, it's not so easy. It's not so easy when you're young.

The idea that it's difficult trying to understand something you're experiencing for the first time ever — no matter what era you live in?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

It's Valentine's Day, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the film being free for streaming today. What makes it good viewing?

For me, I realized [the film is] mostly about love.

Curiously — I was not expecting this, and I was happy  — a guy said to me, 'Oh, I can identify with your film. With the first crush and the way you're all mixed up and alive at the same time.'

You were surprised? Who did you imagine your audience would be when you were making the film?

Oh, I thought it was mostly for girls who like girls. But at the same time, I'm really happy that it's totally open for [everyone].

(NFB)

There are a few trips to the movie theatre in "I Like Girls." Do you like romantic movies? Any favourites that would be good to watch on Valentine's Day?

Love films, they are not my favourite, I must say (laughs). It's hard to find good love stories, except maybe Casablanca. They are rare, I think. But when they're good, it's wonderful. You can cry and be happy and have all sorts of emotions.

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

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