Identity And The Glory of Girlhood Stand At The Center Of Nijla Mu'min's 'Jinn' (SXSW Review)
Freedom. It’s a word that epitomizes our teenage years – a time that seems endless and glorious. However, it’s also a period where we often feel confined — boxed in as we rebel against our parents’ rules and traditions while trying to step into our own identities. Writer-director (and Shadow and Act contributor) Nijla Mu'min’s debut feature Jinn paints a picture of a teen we don’t often see in film. Jinn tells the story of a Black girl who wears her freedom and individuality like a coat of armor, while those around her — including her mother, are still trying to grapple with who they are. Summer (portrayed by The Quad’s Zoe Renee) is a carefree high school senior who embraces girlhood full throttle. A dancer with her sights set on securing admission to California Institute of the Arts, Summer spends her days hanging with her homegirls, flirting with anyone who catches her eye, dyeing her lush fro a variety of colors, and chomping down on pepperoni pizza and churros. Her relatively stress-free life is upended when her mother Jade (portrayed by Luke Cage's Simone Missick) decides to convert to Islam.
Though this is mostly Summer’s story, Mu'min also turns her lens on Jade. A prominent meteorologist on a network channel, Jade's life seems to be in order professionally, but her desire for something more profound leads her to Islam. While Summer is fearless — diving headfirst into exploring her sexuality, identity, friendships, and even Islam, Jade is wary and fearful. Missick brings a warmth, cautiousness, and strength to the role, even when Jade berates her daughter for not being who she wants her to be. It was intriguing to watch the relationship between Jade and Summer crackle and fade between friendship and guardianship. The mother-daughter relationship is central here, as we watch two very different women come to terms with who they are and who they are desperate to become. This juxtaposition was one of the most profound aspects Jinn. After all, our relationships with our mothers, though imperfect are often deeply embedded in who we are as Black women.
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