DAY 3 IRIS REVIEWS: SIGNATURE MOVE, SCAR TISSUE AND COCOON
Walking home tonight, I realised I had a mammoth task in front of me. I could pick only a few films to review from the many brilliant ones I saw today. I actually managed to watch all of the films screened, and experienced a roller-coaster of emotions. The honesty in the stories, the diversity in the voices and the visual beauty of them all merged together to create a truly memorable day. But you know what makes it easy to pick three random films from a plethora of options? Being super-sleepy after a very long day. So, without further delay, here are my Iris Reviews for Day 3!
The feature film ‘Signature Move’ is actor and co-writer Fawzia Mirza’s love-letter to her Pakistani-American identity and to her immigrant mother. It tells a brave truth. Our current LGBT+ culture lauds the bravery of those who come out – as it should. But this often inadvertently means that those who do not come out are seen as cowardly. Mirza’s character defiantly claims that her path is not lesser, it is simply different. It is a truth that needs to be heard.
The character of the mother in the film is so uniquely wholesome that it demands special notice. In any other movie, the conservative mother could easily become the villain. But not here. That is due to two reasons. Firstly, the role is in the deft hands of veteran actor Shabana Azmi, who is always at the top of her game. Secondly, the script (by Mirza and Lisa Donato) creates a world for her that is separate from her daughter’s and invites us into it. This character does not fold neatly into any particular box. And that is delightful. She is complex and deeply relatable as a desi parent figure.
With such well-written characters, great comic timing, and impeccable acting by everyone involved, ‘Signature Move’ packs a punch.
(You can read an interview with Fawzia Mirza on p.24 of the Festival Programme. For her BBC Asian Network interview, click here.)
One of the functions of art is to articulate truths about the world that we have failed to articulate for ourselves. Nish Gera’s short ‘Scar Tissue’ does exactly that and leaves a mark.
We meet Sami on a fateful night in his life. A Syrian refugee from Damascus, he understandably has his guard up. He is free now to pursue life in Amsterdam and does so – meeting a native for a first date. Yet, despite the best intentions of his date Johan, it does not go as planned.
The third character, Bashir, is introduced as he asks the duo for a cigarette. When Sami first sees Bashir, it makes for a beautiful moment. In Johan’s eyes, the former is his date and the latter is a homeless refugee. But the barriers of class melt away between the two as Sami realises Bashir is a Syrian just like him.
Sami’s night is divided into two, just as his world is divided into two. He spends time with Johan, a fellow gay man who is white. They connect on one level and disconnect on another. The same holds true for his time with Bashir, a fellow Syrian refugee who is straight. Sami does not find his ‘home’ with either.
There are many things to love about ‘Cocoon’. But my top one would be how writer-director Liying Mei managed to channel the perspective of a 10-year-old girl. ‘Cocoon’ is endearing in how it brings 10-year-old Qingqing’s world to life. The short beautifully captures her discovery of sex and relationships, her friendship with the class president, and the comedic moments in her everyday life.
The story revolves around an adulterous mother, an absent father and a spying child. It should be difficult to empathise with all of the characters individually, but this film makes it easy. The camera angles are most impressive when different sides to a story are captured playing out in a single fixed frame. It paints a visually-captivating, nostalgic portrait of a small town in late-’90s China. The multi-layered characters are performed excellently by the actors. But of course, the highest praise goes to young Jinger Li who holds your undivided attention throughout as Qingqing.