11th October 2018 8.30pm at Vue West End
12th October 2018 12.45pm at odeontcr: Odeon Tottenham Court Road
13th October 2018 9.00pm at Rich Mix
In the age of Instagram, a young girl in a hijab flirtatiously flaunts her cleavage in a leopard-skin bra. “Halal Hottie”, the caption reads. It’s a picture that doesn’t quite compute, a phrase that goes against the grain, squirming uncomfortably on the tongue. Nijla Mumin’s new coming-of-age drama, Jinn, is driven by this oxymoronic clash of cultures, a discord of imagery and language which compels us from scene to scene.
The film tells the story of Summer (Zoe Renee), a passionate dancer in her final year at High School. On top of the usual bumpy ride that comes with an adolescent identity perpetually in flux, the feature places another fork in the road when the teen’s mother Jade (Simone Missick), the local weather woman, decides to convert to Islam. As Summer struggles to reconcile her religious exploration with her sexual curiosity, she is forced to question whether faith is compatible with both loving and satisfying her body.
The friction between religious doctrine and liberal western ideology is well-trodden ground for cinema. However, Mumin’s debut feature explores one girl’s navigation of the crucial intersection – and conflict – between three equally stigmatised communities: women, Muslims and persons of colour. Renee’s performance is nuanced and full of the angst of adolescence. Summer is shamed for her vanity, and her fear is palpable as she goes on to slut-shame her friend in one particularly poignant scene. She is afraid of the Jinn, an Arabic figure who takes on human form and leads men astray. She is, after all, a shapeshifter, just like her mother before her.
This idea of metamorphosis is cleverly realised through Bruce Francis Cole’s outstanding cinematography. Stunningly composed shots offer a colourful fusion of identities through a sensual celebration of the female form. Soft lighting illuminates exposed skin, fluid dance sequences cut to close-ups of twirling limbs and luxuriously voluminous hair. Delicate Middle-eastern patterned fabrics slip luxuriously through fingertips, a feast for the senses. Increasingly, the images intermingle into a hybridised art form, Zoe intertwined with her headscarf as she pulses seductively to hip-hop.
In these images comes a hopeful, if unsubtle, suggestion that balance might be attainable. However, even in the fickle throes of youth, the speed with which the rebellious Summer embraces new teachings – and falls head-over-heels in love – is somewhat unconvincing, creating a slight disconnect. Though her vulnerability and impressionability are sympathetic, a lack of development means that the screenplay never quite packs the full punch of its potential. Nevertheless, this is a promising directorial debut led by beguiling performances.
Jinn does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Jinn here: