Opinions differ on whether a music video of three high-school students wearing burqas is offensive to the Muslim faith; the girls borrowed Yesmin’s mother’s prayer clothes to cover REM’s Losing My Religion, of all songs. Yesmin’s father is supportive of the video and its viral success. Something akin to the trio’s manager, he chauffeurs them to events, where the friends perform live. But while for Bella and Nati the hijab is a costume, Yesmin wears it in real life.
Producer Ulrich Seidl’s influence is unmistakable in Austrian director Kurdwin Ayub’s feature debut. While the Rimini filmmaker uses distant long takes to allow gritty realities to unfold in front of his camera, Ayub’s characters document these themselves. Sonne’s teenagers record everything on their phones and, with or without filters, share these videos on social media. Public urination, vomiting, animal cruelty – nothing is off limits.
Traditional cinematography is laced with these cellphone clips, often depicted as screen-grabs revealing usernames and the occasional online reaction. The daring structure of flipping from the horizontal to the vertical exposes how imperative virtual showmanship has become to Generation Z’s self-discovery.
Casting her own parents as the protagonists, the strength in Ayub’s coming-of-age drama lies in its depiction of the Kurdish diaspora in Vienna. Perfectly polyglot, Yesmin’s language is speckled with crass Austrian expressions as she talks to her friends; at home she speaks a German-Kurdish mix. In a shapely role reversal, the girl’s father is much stricter towards his son than he is with her, while her mother’s experiences in Iraq made her prudent and wary of Austrian authorities. When Yesmin’s brother and his friends break into a zoo, their killing of a pig is addressed elusively. The family scoffs at the resulting police investigation, instead of questioning Kerim’s behaviour, and from this point on, the film proceeds arcanely.
The winner of the Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale touches upon important issues such as cultural appropriation and self-expression, but ultimately fizzles out without direction.
Sonne does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.