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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 23.Jul.22

Girls Feels: Skin Deep  
Reviews by Rich Cline
Skin Deep
release UK 22.Jul.22
22/UK NQV 1h48

When Grey Is a Colour
This third collection in this series features five short films about teen girls who are confronted with big issues in the world around them, forcing them to learn and adapt. Strongly well made, each has a strong sense of authenticity about it, getting under the surface to observe internalised thoughts and feelings.

Kemper and Plantinga dir-scr Sarah Veltmayer
with Nola Kemper, Richelle Plantinga, Bram Klappe, Jadyn Jones, Noah Erselina, Julius Overtop, Virtue Badu
18/Netherlands 10m

Never Forget  

Never Forget Gloriously photographed in shades of pink and yellow, this Dutch short sharply captures a hot summer day in the life of two teen girls who feel ready to grow up. It's bright, colourful and packed with witty visual touches as filmmaker Veltmayer reveals the lead characters' deeper yearnings with skill and unusual subtlety. She also develops a tone that's enjoyably languid, although in the end the film feels rather short and sudden.

At 14, Jesse (Kemper) and her best pal Sharon (Plantinga) are hanging out in the sunshine on an apartment balcony, breaking into the neighbouring flat for supplies. As they send text messages, they also chat about boys and share their dreams about what they want from their first time. But the guy Jesse has her eye on seems to be a sleazy womaniser, and she begins to think that there must be someone else who'd be a better option for her first kiss.

A cute kitten adds a wrinkle to the story, leading to a little twist that provides a sting in the tale. On the way there, Veltmayer quietly makes a series of superbly engaging comments about youthful longing, particularly when it involves the fantasies teens think are real. Perhaps a little more development of the characters would have given the film a stronger kick, but it's beautifully played by the cast and feels warmly observant.

Dupont and Gernez dir-scr Lise Akoka, Romane Gueret
with Angelique Gernez, Eddhy Dupont, Dhalia Humbert, Felicia Corpet, Julie Brun-Lhomme, Elodie Holeind, Catherine Delbury, Gabriel Quetin
16/France 28m

Chasse Royale  

Chasse Royale Kicking off in the middle of an angry clash, this energetic French drama maintains an edgy attitude all the way through, anchored by an astonishing central performance. Filmmakers Akoka and Gueret adeptly maintain a sense of emotions out of control, with explosive conversations and darkly hilarious banter in every scene. But there's also a remarkably thoughtful undercurrent that gives the film a strong resonance.

An abrasive, opinionated 13-year-old, Angelique (Gernez) has a foul-mouthed tantrum that causes trouble at school but catches the attention of a film crew looking for a teen actress. Sulking, she ignores them, but her little brother Eddhy (Dupont) convinces her to think about it. They live in a home overflowing with noisy children, and their mother (Corpet) is the worst of the lot. So Angelique decides to attend the audition.

The dialog between these siblings is astonishingly rough and confrontational, creating a visceral picture of this family's life together. Gernez has a blast of screen presence as Angelique, a bitter teen who wants everyone to think that she doesn't care at all. But it's clear that she does. The audition plays in a long take that's almost unnervingly revelatory, cutting through her bravado to the point where we begin to realise that she might be seeing herself for the first time.

Seri and Ruhabura dir-scr Josza Anjembe
with Grace Seri, Augustin Ruhabura, Mata Gabin, Ousmane Macalou, Mathilde La Musse, Romeo Mestanza, Anthony Bajon, Cecile Kiffer
17/France 21m

The Blue White Red of My Hair  
aka: French   4/5
Le Bleu Blanc Rouge de Mes Cheveux

The Blue White Red of My Hair Earthy and thoughtful, this French drama carefully creates a documentary-style sense of authenticity in the way it depicts various aspects of life for a family of immigrants from Cameroon. Honing in on a generational clash, the film is a gorgeous collision of culture and deeply personal yearnings. Where the story goes feels perhaps both simplistic and overly drastic, but the film is making an important point.

A top student at school, teen Seyna (Seri) has made her parents (Ruhabura and Gabin) proud by getting into university, and she has also given her little brother Djibril (Macalou) a lot to live up to. But she needs a French ID card to register for university, and when she decides that she also wants French citizenship, her father has a meltdown. Then when applying, her hair is too big for the required photograph.

Even with big feelings gurgling through the scenes, there's never a hint of melodrama; the tone remains light and realistic. With a steady pace and scenes that are shot, edited and played with natural rhythms and insight, filmmaker Anjembe knowingly takes on very deep ideas about identity and nationality. Through Seyna's eyes, her dreams are clear and straightforward, but her father can't cope with her severing ties to her past. So the question is how far she will go to achieve her dream.

Vos and Zandvliet dir Marit Weerheijm
scr Saar Ponsioen
with Cecilia Vos, Ko Zandvliet, Sam Louwyck, Reinout Bussemaker, Margo Dames, Tjebbe Baanders
16/Netherlands 27m

When Grey Is a Colour  
Grijs Is Ook een Kleur   3.5/5

When Grey Is a Colour Quietly observant, this introspective Dutch drama centres on a young girl as she tries to make sense of her family amid hushed conversations and dark tensions between her parents and siblings. While the storytelling is a bit oblique, especially one of the key elements, it's also finely directed and performed to skilfully find nuance in the characters without overstating anything. So each of the relationships feel bracingly realistic.

When troubled teen Douwe (Zandvliet) moves back home to the family farm, his parents (Bussemaker and Dames) are determined to keep an eye on him. And so is his little sister Cato (Vos), who longs to reconnect with him in a meaningful way. Something serious is going on, but no one is talking to her. And their father is getting increasingly short-tempered about it. So she turns to a local mechanic (Louwyck) who seems to be more understanding.

Shot through Cato's curious eyes, the film is able to reveal things to the audience that she isn't quite old enough to understand. Of course her younger brother (Baanders) is oblivious to the confusing mix of emotions that are expressed around the house. And in order to make sense of her own feelings, she knows she'll need to speak openly with Douwe on her own. All of the performances are beautifully understated, revealing what's going on behind the eyes to pull the audience in with surprising depth.

Taouriti and Hannachi dir-scr Amel Guellaty
with Sarra Hannachi, Charfeddine Taouriti, Chedli Taghouti, Saida El Hammi, Asma Ben Hsan, Eya Bellagha, Abderrahmane Trabelsi, Wajih Sliman
17/Tunisia 20m

Black Mamba  

Black Mamba A remarkably complex portrait of a fiercely independent young woman, this drama from Tunisia hones in on the duality between living your own honest life while trying to meet family expectations that might make being truthful impossible. With first-rate filmmaking, writer-director Guellaty is revealing how these pressures lead to fractured lives, and even a fully fractured society with secret undercurrents.

In Tunis, Sarra (Hannachi) is adept at playing the perfect daughter, learning household skills as her mother (El Hammi) prepares her to be married to a boy from a good family. But secretly, she's sneaking out, smoking and putting on makeup to cover up bruises on her face. Even her friends don't know what she's really up to when she heads out at night into an underground world that might offer her an alternative future.

In the central role, Hannachi has a compelling presence that holds the attention even when we're not quite sure what she's up to. For Sarra, the idea of living your own life is something from a movie; she has responsibilities to her mother that include securing a future with an acceptable marriage. Where this story goes is unexpected, revealing something about Sarra that's bold and thought provoking.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 23.Jul.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall