Jinn is about a high school girl named Summer whose mother, Jade, converts to Islam, and both of them reckon with the effects of this on their lives as individuals and their life together. In the interest of full disclosure, Jinn was produced by my friend and Fuller alumna Avril Speaks. (Though if I couldn’t recommend the film, I wouldn’t be reviewing it at all, as per our institute’s policy.)
Summer is a typical black girl in Los Angeles. She spends her days eating pizza with her friends and mooning over boys. She dreams of going to college and studying dance. Instagram and YouTube are a big part of her life. Jade is a meteorologist. Her conversion prompts workplace drama as she decides whether or not to wear a hijab while reporting the weather on-air. Jade wants Summer to join her at the mosque. Summer doesn’t like the way her mother’s faith impinges on her freedom, but she does like the cute boy she meets at weekly prayer.
It’s rare to see a film that deals with the ways a religious conversion affects a family. It’s almost unheard of to see a film like that set in this context. Jinn is at its best when it is being quietly observant of those particular things, such as when Summer or Jade try on head scarves and consider their appearance in them instead of fixing their hair as they are accustomed to doing. The dialogue in the film sometimes sounds a bit overwritten, but the content of the discussions rings complex and true (and across the cast, the actors do a fantastic job making the trickiest bits of dialogue work). This world and the drama created by Jade’s conversion both feel lived in. That authenticity is what lingers long after the film ends.
The religion in question in Jinn is Islam, and while the complications arising from Jade’s conversion are particular—Summer’s love of pepperoni pizza requires adjustment as much as her wardrobe—in a broader sense, the conflicts are typical of any religious conversion. All religious convictions require adherents to forego certain things and adopt others. To have these stipulations applied to you when you are entering adulthood and eager for the freedoms adulthood grants feels stifling. Summer bristles against some of new rules, and she finds some of them freeing. Her mother has a similar experience. Jinn is mature in this regard even as it features two women coming-of-age.
Jinn is playing in limited release around the country, and it’s also available on demand. See it however works best for you. I was fortunate to be able to see it in a theater, and I was happy to experience the colors of the film bold on the big screen especially. Summer’s hair and the scarves she and her mother don really pop out of their urban environment, soft pinks, purples, and greens effervescing above a concrete sea, evidence of a liveliness both intrinsic to Summer and in the faith her mother adopts.