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Dir/scr: Kurdwin Ayub. Austria. 2022. 87min.

Connected directly to the modern diaspora and reframing the experience of Muslim teenagers, Kurdwin Ayub’s vibrant feature film sparkles with challenge and truth. Born in Iraq but now living in Austria, Ayub turns her lived experiences into the compelling and willfully chaotic story of a 17-year-old Kurdish girl in a Vienna housing estate who finds her religious and cultural identity already fractured and strained. growing when a video she makes with her friends goes viral.

Avoids traditional on-screen depictions of Muslim femininity and rebellion

Ayub is no stranger to the festival circuit with shorts including LOLOLOL and Boomerang and his feature documentary Paradise! Paradise!and after Son – produced by Ulrich Seidl – debuts at Berlin’s Encounters strand, it will likely attract attention at other events. Her modern, female-centric story also eschews traditional on-screen depictions of Muslim femininity and rebellion, and those elements may well see her travel farther afield.

A Kurdish teenager born in Vienna to Iraqi parents, Yesmin (Melina Benli) is first pictured filming an iPhone video with her friends, “half Yugoslav” Bella (Law Wallner) and Austrian Nati (Maya Wopienka ). They smoke, dance provocatively, and sing along to REM’s 1991 hit “Losing My Religion” — all dressed in the most precious hijabs of Yesmin’s mother, Awini (Awini Barwari). When the video is inevitably uploaded to YouTube, audiences can assume they know where this story is going. Corn Son‘s greatest strength is its refusal to tow an obvious narrative line; while Awini is dismayed, Yesmin’s father, Omar (Omar Ayub) revels in his daughter’s talent and encourages the trio to perform at various Muslim community events.

With the reaction to the video being largely positive – the only backlash we see is that of two young Kurdish patriots at the end of the film, whom Yesmin puts firmly in their place – this is not a film particularly concerned with the traditional treatment of women who “dare to be different. And while she may wear a headscarf out of respect for her Muslim heritage, neither Yesmin nor the film attaches much importance to the material or issues surrounding her own faith. The acts of putting on prayer robes or removing the headscarf are not moments of powerful drama, but of daily and multicultural life.

All the conflicts here come from within. Yesmin – characterized by a mix of raw vulnerability and rebellious spirit by impressive newcomer Belini – initially revels in her independence, but soon finds herself questioning her brush with stardom. As her friends co-opt elements of her culture and put themselves and their dreams first, Yesmin struggles to maintain control of her own, already fragile, sense of self. Her biggest challenge is to stop going with the flow and figure out what she really wants.

Unlike many films of this ilk, it has less to do with a tension between faith and rebellion, tradition and modernity, but with broader and more universal questions of femininity, sexuality and domination. of social media in shaping young people’s lives and identities. people. Yesmin and her contemporaries are interesting, independent women, but live their lives on their phones, using filters and careful editing to present carefully selected – and, by default, sexually attractive – versions of themselves.

In fact, all of SonThe protagonists seem to be looking for a place to settle, and the film captures this melting-pot miasma well. Cinematographer Enzo Brandner’s intimate handheld camera combines with shaky cellphone footage reduced to much smaller portions; the suggestion is that these are lives continually framed by this black mirror, conforming to the expectations of a public of judging strangers.

Elsewhere, Yesmin’s experiences as a typical student, attending algebra and dry language classes, are far removed from those of her mother, who struggles with a traumatic personal history that has left her in fear. to lose the meager freedoms of his family. In fact, one of the most profound scenes in the film comes when Awini shares these memories with her daughter. an emotional fusion of past and future that, despite Yesmin’s best efforts, is impossible to untangle.

Production company: Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion

International sales: Cercamon, hello@cercamon.biz

Producer: Ulrich Seidl

Director of photography: Enzo Brandner

Production Design: Julia Libiseller

Editing: Roland Stottinger

Main cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Kerim Dogan, Omar Ayub, Awini Barwari

About Michelle T. Friesen

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