Jinn
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Jinn

At a glance, writer-director Nijla Mu’min’s debut feature, Jinn, is everything we should be seeing more of — a film headlined by people of color, and set in a milieu (in this case, a California Islamic community) that a majority of movies ignore, trivialize or debase. Mu’min based the story on several of her own experiences; her parents divorced when she was young and she shuttled around between her devout Muslim father and her more free-spirited mother. And in lead actress Zoe Renee, who plays the 17-year-old protagonist, Summer, she’s found a magnetic artist who deserves a long and fruitful career.

There are good, admirable intentions, and then there’s the movie that results from them. Sad to say, Jinn consistently lets down its premise and performers with a by-the-numbers-at-best screenplay that triple-underlines all of its forward-thinking themes. It’s clear things are off from an early scene in which one of Summer’s teachers earnestly and emphatically asks her class, “What is identity?” Even by the cut-rate standards of this cliché — an educator character baldly stating a story’s thesis — the film manages to rise below it. Things slightly improve in a subsequent sequence in which Summer and her friends go to a pizza place and she flirts with a counter girl. (Her reward: extra pepperoni.) Renee can communicate so much with a wink and a smile that only the barest dialogue is necessary, though Mu’min rarely trusts her actress to, you know, act.

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