Loose adaptations on stories regarding culture clash and other forms of appropriation can ultimately result in two unique outcomes — an informative learning tool or a needless gentrified fairytale. In the worst case scenario —aligned with western priorities and biases— white-lens told stories tend to often misrepresent and scrutinise minority groups in the process of their storytelling. In the case of My Sunny Maad (a film adapted from the novel ‘Frišta’ from humanitarian journalist Petra Procházková), the film unfortunately shares a similar white-designated perspective with the original text. Only this time around, it’s in feature form. The end result of the project is a beautifully designed albeit questionable film with a disappointing central perspective.
Especially in a film that specifically aims to depict an intriguing character study on the decade-sprawling infiltration of western media that has slowly entered the social mindset of various Middle Eastern countries including Afghanistan; it almost seems reductive to tell this story from the perspective of one of its few white characters. It also doesn’t help that in the hectic third act, the film has the audacity to rely on culturally insensitive cliches and stereotypes that are both needlessly offensive and contribute very little to the overarching thematic stakes.
Even more beguiling is the justification for the film’s painterly quality. Throughout My Sunny Maad, the film consistently exuberates a children’s book pastiche — matching the same light-hearted optimism and world view of the film’s titular character Maad. It’s as if the film would have been far more fulfilling and justified if only director Michaela Pavlátová told the entire story from Maad’s point of view. There is merely one specific occasion where the film effectively utilises its visual aesthetic for the purpose of visual storytelling. The scene in question is featured in the film’s opening sequence, where the texture and tactility of the images specifically provoke a colourful transition between the dreary city of Prague and the busy streets of Kabul. It’s a purposeful representation of Herra’s subconscious culture clash through the power of animation technique. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t a single other moment in the film which included a brief moment of subtle character psychology clashing with design, for purposeful effect.
In contrast with Pavlátová’s short film work, My Sunny Maad is an unfortunate mixed bag from an animator who used to consistently produce some of the most polarising and innovative works based in Central Europe. When putting into account the lack of urgency in its plot progression, bombardment of underdeveloped subplots, and questionable material in regards to its portrayal of Afghan communities, Pavlátová’s interpretation of Procházková’s original novel is a headache inducing visual splendour.