Amateurs (dir. Gabriela Pichler)

Amateurs is a pleasingly mischievous and occasionally somber story about how locals competing to make a short film highlighting their small Swedish town brings out contradictions due to recent decades of migration and corporate globalization. Although the film has three characters it follows closely, it has an uncanny sense of when to magnify the people who surround them. As the story pits filmmaking versus political ideology in a dry, bouncy bike, bridge or drone ride through the mundane, the script makes careful choices in fragmenting the mythic idea about unified minorities.

So it is surprising when, through what you retroactively realize is crafty narrative seeding, you’re brought to powerful moment of collective release. Along the way Amateurs disrupts gender and race stereotypes while perspicaciously updating what media scholar Heather Hendershot has argued is a Parks and Recreation-style “cultural forum” for the the several types of outsiders that call small town Scandinavia their home.

Personally, I tremendously enjoyed the transformation in the Tamil local who is forced to communicate with his mentally ill immigrant mother who has lost her facility to speak Swedish. Such genial touches of characterization make up Amateurs, as do heartfelt brushes of quasi-satirical commentary about how no one is really an expert in our common world of blurred-erased boundaries. —Ritesh Mehta

Yara Ebrahim Eliadotter and Zahraa Aldoujaili show off their skills as Amateurs. Image courtesy of AFI Fest.

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