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Firecrackers

[…] Beside the introduction of the delicate problem of being raped by one’s own boyfriend, Mozaffari works with fine-grained psychological observations, showing how discrimination against women is conducted also through small gestures, and a series of almost undetectable moral and emotional blackmail.

[…] In a work full of bright and contrasting colours, Mozaffari chose for her two characters a nuanced and complex palette of tonalities.

[…] «Firecrackers» is definitely more than a piece of social criticism, and more than a feminist movie – and, as feminist movie, it certainly finds the right complex stance on the topic. It is also a refined reflection on how much the individual is expected to react in the face of a freedom-killing society that is dressed in moral(istic) clothes, and how much he/she is or should be capable of reacting.

In the first fifteen minutes of Firecrackers, young Canadian filmmaker Jasmin Mozaffari demonstrates her ability to create a vertiginous tempo with an empathic (well, more than just subjective) camera following two teenagers that perfectly embody the cliché of the rebellious and disrespectful youth of the provincial lower class. The excitement for the filmic rush is quickly shut down by the recognition of the typical as well as (for me) unacceptable depiction of the young generation as ruinous and self-destructive – which I have always considered a distorted projection of frustrated adults. However, we soon realize that this is only the starting point; Mozaffari draws a merciless picture of the Canadian province that goes beyond the topic of the youths.

With an interesting twist of the plot, the boys with whom the two female protagonists, Lou and Chantal (two amazing newcomers, Michaela Kurimsky and Karena Evans), share their reckless deeds and their need for a radical change reveal themselves cowardly and misogynistic. They harshly boycott the plan to flee from the county and head towards New York, thereby crushing the myths and hopes of the two young girls. The topic of the youth is then rapidly dismantled in favour of the gender question. However, this matter is not simply approached head on, through blatant confrontations between men and women. Beside the introduction of the delicate problem of being raped by one’s own boyfriend, Mozaffari works with fine-grained psychological observations, showing how discrimination against women is conducted also through small gestures, and a series of almost undetectable moral and emotional blackmail. It is the result of a widespread mentality that is often shared by both men and women.

This point is particularly apparent through the development of the plot focusing on Lou’s mother, a weak character trying to exert her conformism-oriented authority on her daughter while finding support in dull religious worship. The sectarian spirit of a pious community is especially well described in Firecrackers and, through an intelligent associative editing as well, is shown in its intimate connection with the most reactionary social behaviours – machismo included. The personal problems of the two girls escalate and reveal an evil pressure encumbering them from all around. In a no-way-out atmosphere, they confess to feeling as if they have no air to breathe – and we seem to have reached the dramatic acme of the film.

Nevertheless, the accomplishment of the climax is still to come, as the deterioration of the girls’ friendship will follow as the ultimate step of the dramatic spiral. Chantal – who has coloured skin and so conveys the racial issue in the film – appears to be weaker in the struggle for freedom, and Lou sees herself as being forced to sink into loneliness. For Mozaffari, this dramatic separation is actually only instrumental in highlighting two different approaches to finding one’s own way out. The end of the story will restore the positive mood that the two girls have strongly rooted within themselves.

The burning topics displayed in Firecrackers notwithstanding, the actual force of this amazing movie is also be found in the impressive authenticity of the two female protagonists. In a work full of bright and contrasting colours, Mozaffari chose for her two characters a nuanced and complex palette of tonalities. Even if they are the undisputed heroines, their behaviour is full of hesitations, they make mistakes, and their goodwill is constantly challenged. Firecrackers grows in emotional intensity also (and probably especially) when the action leaves room to pause for reflection or, indeed, hesitation. In these moments, the excellent soundtrack thoroughly supports the scenes conveying strong cinematic experiences – and Kurimsky’s and Evans’ effective acting completes the work.

Firecrackers is definitely more than a piece of social criticism, and more than a feminist movie – and, as feminist movie, it certainly finds the right complex stance on the topic. It is also a refined reflection on how much the individual is expected to react in the face of a freedom-killing society that is dressed in moral(istic) clothes, and how much he/she is or should be capable of reacting. The vulnerability of women becomes therefore an exemplary case for a more general vulnerability – how it is perfectly shown, for example, through the wonderful character of Lou’s little brother, who apparently likes to dress as a woman and is forced to learn to shoot, and cut his hair against his will. A powerful scene, that is one of the many emotional highlights of a film that is simply a great movie that is both fully mastered and original.

First published: October 07, 2018

Firecrackers | Film | Jasmin Mozaffari | CAN 2018 | 93’ | Zurich Film Festival 2018

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