Identity is often explored in teen oriented films, but they only explore the surface. Nothing is more important, or so it seems, to a teenager than how they look, how they appear outwardly and what message do they project to everyone else. Exploring more than one side of an identity is where director Nijla Mumin takes us, into the life of Summer.
In her last year of high school, Summer impatiently waits to hear from her chosen art school where she wants to study dance. She lives with her meteorologist mother, Jade, who has taken an interest in Islam and encourages Summer to join her at the mosque. Having found meaning and peace in the religion and the community, Jade converts. Torn between her identity as a dancer and her new identity as Muslim, Summer struggles to find a balance and acceptance.
Rarely has there been a film that about a teenager who not only joins a religion but also explores all aspects of the religion’s beliefs. Summer is at first pushed into going to the mosque but through her own discoveries, she finds aspects of the religion that she enjoys. Her fault is thinking that her becoming Muslim is a statement to be used. Her #HalallHottie moment is made impulsively and out of spite which she claims not to regret. She feels shame about the exposure only when she is made to feel that what she has done is wrong in the eyes of her new found community. Summer continuously learns about herself even though she has a clear understanding of how her identity is created.
Part of the Love strand at London Film Festival, the film explores love in the conventional sense that it is about the love between Summer and her parents and it is also about the innocent love Summer has for fellow student and Muslim Tahir. Unsure of each other at first, trying to follow the rules of their religion but really it’s how their parents feel, they gently ease into a relationship that is more intimate. What’s interesting is we get to see both Summer’s and Tahir’s reactions to being torn apart after they are ‘caught’. It isn’t one sided.
Summer’s identity is important to her and even though she seeks approval from outside, such as on Instagram, she knows who she really is, conveyed through dance and words. Summer goes through a transition but this isn’t a run of the mill ‘coming of age’ film, this is about exploring identity and not letting one thing define you.
Dir: Nijla Mumin
Prd: Nijla Mumin, Maya Emelle, Arielle Saturne, Avril Z. Speaks
Scr: Nijla Mumin
Cast: Simone Missick, Zoe Renee, Dorian Missick, Kelly Jenrette, Ashlei Foushee, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Music: Jesi Nelson
Running time: 92 minutes