Writer-director Nijla Mu’min makes a strong feature debut with “Jinn,” a drama about shifting identities and shifting relationships in which a young woman comes to terms with her family and herself within the context of a new religion.
Zoe Renee, in her first feature film role, is luminous and magnetic as Summer, a headstrong teen whose mother Jade (Simone Missick) has a spiritual awakening and converts to Islam. A single mother and a local TV meteorologist, Jade finds that Islam fills her soul. Summer converts as well, despite her fluid, unashamed expressions of sexuality and her lack of experience with religion. A Muslim friend from school, Tahir (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), helps her with the transition, and a romance blossoms between the teens.
Mu’min focuses on the characters’ experiences as they each learn to adapt to new ways of being in the world, whether it’s Jade’s decision to wear a hijab on camera, or Summer’s explorations of her own sexuality. Can she be sexual and religious? Can she be hot in a hijab? There are new boundaries for Summer to test, as any teen does at this age.
“Jinn” is a familiar story, told in a cultural context rarely depicted on film, and Mu’min’s approach is so lyrical and empathetic that it feels completely fresh and new. It’s a remarkable film with sensitive and stirring turns by Renee and Missick in the mother-daughter roles.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts Nov. 16, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also on VOD