Directed by: Nijla Mumin | 92 minutes | drama | Actors: Simone Missick, Zoe Renee, Hisham Tawfiq, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Dorian Missick, Kelly Jenrette, Ashlei Foushee, Maya Morales, Upasana Beharee, Damien D. Smith, Horace Dodd, John Zderko
Those who name their child Summer are taking a big risk. A depressed Summer is doubly tragic, both for the child and for the parents. Fortunately, Summer’s parents from the American coming-of-age drama ‘Jinn’ guessed right. Despite some bumps (black, girl, divorced parents), Summer is the sunshine in the house, a house that is located in summery Los Angeles. What could possibly go wrong then? Not much, although our Summer gets the shock of her life when her mother suddenly converts to Islam.
In the sequel, we see how our curious heroine accompanies her mother to the mosque and also has herself converted. Then there are bigger bumps. Such as a nice Muslim boy, a sexy selfie on the internet and a dance competition with movements that probably not every Muslim can appreciate. It doesn’t always go smoothly with mother Jade either. For example, the channel for which she works as a weather forecaster has to get used to the sudden headscarf.
In times of racial tensions and lingering Islamophobia, it’s quite brave to make a film about 2 African-American women who convert to Islam. What you do hope for is some subtlety. Fortunately, ‘Jinn’ almost drowns in the nuance. The only time when words are harsher comes when two near-adults do things they may not be quite ready for. Moreover, things don’t always go well between Summer and her dance buddies, but they also fall into the category of near-adult stuff.
For most of this film, we follow Summer’s search for her identity. We understand why she is attracted to Islam, we understand why she loves to dance, we understand why that is an awkward combination. And we also understand the concerns of the parents, Muslim or otherwise, who always want the best for their offspring. The fact that this film is set in a middle-class environment helps to put those concerns into words.
Cinematically, there is not much to experience in ‘Jinn’. The acting isn’t spectacular either, with the exception of Zoe Renee’s talent as the vivacious Summer. All this results in a sympathetic and balanced coming-of-age, which in a better world could perhaps have resulted in a little more tolerance. But complaining about so much nuance and so much zest for life is of course not the intention.