The criteria for whether a film portraying a little girl gets reviewed is pretty straightforward: they are the lead of the film or are in an important role as a catalyst to the story. Sometimes there are noteworthy short scenes (or montages) in films—usually in the form of flashbacks—which are important in informing the story. Many of these are worth mentioning but do not really warrant a full film review.
In this case, because of a recent controversy, I have the materials for Desire (Desearas: Al Hombre De Tu Hermana, 2017) on hand and thought I would begin with it. The film is an Argentinian erotic thriller directed by Diego Kaplan. Predictably, the director got into hot water for shooting a scene with two little girls—one of which is depicted as experiencing her first orgasm. A reasonable argument can be made for including the scene as it informs the motivations of one of the protagonists in the rest of the film which, after all, it is an erotic drama.
There is an article by Erin Nyren in which Kaplan responds to accusations of child pornography. In it, he insists that the girls had no idea what they were portraying and were properly supervised at all times. One of the director’s statements is quite apt:
Everything works inside the spectators’ heads, and how you think this scene was filmed will depend on your level of depravity. -Diego Kaplan, Variety, June 30, 2018
Two sisters, Ofelia and Lucia, are watching a John Ford film.
One of them gets the idea to build a horse out of pillows and begins riding. The sister follows suit, somewhat less enthusiastically.
The sister is confused and alarmed by the behavior and reaction of the other girl. When the girl (rather comically) falls of her ‘horse’, mother is called.
Believing the girl had an epileptic seizure, mother rushes her to the hospital. In the narration, the protagonist explains that after that day, she has been seeking that experience of ‘fire’ ever since.
Far from being child pornography, as some claim, the scene does nonetheless make some valid comments about sexuality: 1) girls often do experience their first orgasm at such an age—sometimes incidentally while riding horses, 2) in the story, it is explained that the girl was medicated and that speaks to how our society pathologizes sexuality, 3) the reference to an epileptic seizure is also interesting because it is now understood that, biochemically and neurologically, such a seizure closely resembles that of a real orgasm. Some speculate that epilepsy is simply part of the normal orgasm reflex gone haywire.