Crackling all-female debut set in a one-trailer-park Canadian town
Dir/scr. Jasmin Mozaffari. Canada. 2018. 93 mins
Two bristling teenage girls long to escape their deadbeat lives in in a one-motel town in Firecrackers, Canadian director Jasmin Mozaffari’s lively debut. Feisty, foul-mouthed, and full of themselves, Lou (Michaela Kurimsky) and Chantal (Karena Evans) have saved up enough money to get to New York, but life is going to hold them ransom and ask a high price for a getaway.
Lou never pauses for breath, and neither does this film
Shot on a low budget, and taking cues both visually and thematically from Andrea Arnold, and, to a lesser extent, Sean Baker, Mozaffari’s film premiered in TIFF’s Discovery section before moving on to compete in Zurich. It should attract further festival attention for writer-director Mozaffari, who shows here what she can do, even if all the elements she attacks – from performance and atmosphere to visuals and sense of place - don’t quite gel into one fully satisfying narrative. The story she has chosen isn’t an entirely unfamiliar one.
Like her lead characters, Mozaffari makes a brash entrance to feature film-making (Firecrackers is an extension of her short film) with the sounds and footage of a girl-on-girl fist fight in the school grounds (much like last year’s Argentinian film, Hunting Season, but swapping the sex). Lou is the antagonist, of course; with her fiery red hair and a temperament to match, she’s burning her school books and all her bridges – she’s leaving for New York with Chantal. They’ve saved up enough money by working as chambermaids in the hotel belonging to Chantel’s aunt, and they’re off tomorrow.
A rudimentary grasp of film plots will have warned the viewer that Lou’s decision to shout this out around town, carrying her money in a flimsy backpack as she necks neat alcohol, is probably a bad one. And so it transpires, with the main question being how Mozaffari can navigate Firecrackers through the plot pitfalls she has so rapidly set up.
The answer is with an energy to match the protagonist’s anger: Lou never pauses for breath, and neither does this film, darting around day and night, bouncing off Lou’s mother and her ex-junkie boyfriend, who repulses and attracts the teenager, and her younger brother, who likes Madonna and wearing make-up. They live in a glorified trailer, with no space to turn. And srrounding all this is the type of toxic teenage masculinity that makes cages for women who dare approach, embodied here through Chantal’s ex-boyfriend who will do anything to stop her escape. No wonder the girls’ friendship comes under pressure; they, like the viewer, are served up a smorgasbord of stress.
For all that it dances on familiar ground, Firecrackers ends on a pleasingly opaque note. It’s attractively shot by Catherine Lutes, and smartly cast with unknowns, making it more than just a calling card for its young writer/director. There’s much to take note of here foom Mozaffari and her all-female crew.
Production company: Prowler Film
International sales: Seville International, email@example.com
Producers: Caitlin Grabham, Kristy Neville
Screenplay: Jasmin Mozaffari
Cinematography: Catherine Lutes
Editor: Simone Smith
Music: Casey MQ
Main cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson, Tamara LeClair, David Kingston