Dir. Sam de Jong
Official Selection International Feature: Denmark
The Richter Scale says: How does one obtain power? That’s a question we all ask ourselves throughout our lifetime and for each of us, depending on our age or what we’re trying to achieve, it means something different. For Ayoub, a teenager of Moroccan descent, it means the respect of all his friends, his family and the baddest ones in the neighborhood who beat him up, and to win over the girl of his dreams. The way he understands it, only bad boys get what they want, which is why he will try to be the baddest boy in the neighborhood, but what if what he has to do to prove he’s a bad boy is too much for him? Is there another way to win the girl and everyone’s respect? In his feature debut, Sam de Jong explores this question in a film that at times feels like a stretched out short film (it’s only 78 minutes long, but some of it feels like filler), but the conclusion it arrives to is worthwhile.
At the beginning, Ayoub makes a promise to his sister Demi: that he won’t be like his father. This promise is present throughout the film, given that parents are our first role model and we share quite a few habits with them. Ayoub’s father is a drug addict who doesn’t seem to talk to anyone but his son and Ayoub is scared to end up like that. We don’t know the whole story, so watching Ayoub start to act more possessive towards his sister and mother and taking jobs from a local mobster, we wonder if his father ever did these things and we don’t even need to know if he did or not, because the fact that we’re wondering creates a fascinating conflict, particularly when the story starts to feel like it doesn’t know where to go.
Other things the movie gets right include the very keen sense of hos teenagers interact and a colorful aesthetic that gives the film a touch of fantasy which allows the filmmaker to get away with things that wouldn’t be believable in the world outside the screen. He often does the same with the dialogue between Ayoub and his friends which is sometimes synchronized, but even if these elements give the film an entertaining artificiality, the feelings it deals with are genuine and what it says about respect and power is something worth saying and hearing.
This film screens today at 6:00 pm at the Juárez Theater. Don’t miss it!