Dir: Kenny Glenaan. UK-Ger.2004. 87mins
Three years ago, GasAttack won the Michael Powell Award at Edinburgh and marked out KennyGlennan as a promising new directorial talent. Yasmin confirms hisstatus as a social realist with an ability to focus on the human element in anyheadline-grabbing dramatic situation.
Sensitively observed andeconomically staged, Yasmin tells of a British Muslim woman's lifebefore and after the terrorist attacks of September 11. It takes a level-headedapproach to potentially incendiary material, creating a film that isemotionally involving and intellectually stimulating.
History has shown that thiskind of small scale, politically relevant feature struggles to find atheatrical audience in the UK, but festival screenings at Locarno, Edinburghand beyond should generate the critical support that would make it a worthwhilegamble for international arthouse distributors.
Previously entitled Sparkand developed through extensive workshops with Muslim communities across thenorth of England, Yasmin is the most fully realised and engagingscreenplay by Simon Beaufoy since his breakthrough with The Full Monty.Mature and multi-layered, it also features a terrific central performance fromArchie Panjabi as a woman torn in many different directions by her familycircumstances, religious background and personal desires.
A British television veteran, Panjabi has played supporting roles in East Is Eas and Bend It Like Beckham but Yasmin allows her to display the emotional range and depth of her talent as she creates a believably fiery yet vulnerable figure. Soon to be seen in Fernando Mereilles The ConstantGardener, this could be a breakout performance for her.
Respectful of her father,Yasmin has entered into an arranged marriage that she has quickly grown todespise. When she leaves for work each day, she assumes a different identity,slipping off her wedding ring and changing from traditional dress into jeansand a sweater in a scene reminiscent of the way Agheleh Rezaee divested herselfof a burka and donned high heeled shoes in Samira Makhmalbaf's At Five InThe Afternoon.
There are strong echoes ofthe work of Ken Loach as Yasmin builds a convincing portrait of acommunity and the way it reflects and defines the conflicts within Yasmin'slife. At work she moves towards a relationship with colleague John (Jackson).At home, she refuses to speak Punjabi to her husband and bitterly resents hispresence much to the shame of her domineering father.
After the events ofSeptember 11, she is made more acutely aware of the pressures and ironies inher life as other colleagues reveal the nature of their prejudices towards herand her husband Faysal is imprisoned as a terrorist suspect. "How come I'memployee of the month one month and now I'm public enemy number one," shedeclares.
The product of manydifferent values and influences, she can find no place of security or belongingand the film charts her growing awareness of her position and thepoliticisation of family members like her brother Nasir.
Even as the story darkensinto the stuff of Kafkaesque nightmare, Yasmin remains full of fire andemotion and there isn't a wasted moment in a film that seems representative ofa new strain of politically conscious cinema (Hamburg Cell, Ae FondKiss) currently coming out of Britain.
Prod cos: Parallax Independent,EuroArts Medien MG, Screen Yorkshire,Channel 4
Int'l sales: Gavin Films, (44) 20 8432 2327
Prod: Sally Hibbin
Co-prod: Jonathan Olsberg
Cine: Tony Slater Ling
Prod des: Jason Carlin
Ed: Kristina Hetherington
Main cast: Archie Panjabi, Renu Setna, Steve Jackson, Syed Ahmed, Shahid Ahmed,Gary Lewis