Jasmin Mozaffari’s first feature length film is aptly named. Firecrackers is an explosive and mesmerizing journey that follows two teenage friends, Lou (Michaela Kurimsky) and Chantelle (Karena Evans), as they attempt to break free of their small town. Their plans to run away from it all are complicated by mundane jobs, poverty, abusive boyfriends, and drug-addicted parents.
Michaela Kurimsky delivers a forceful, magnetic, and complex performance as Lou. Her portrayal of a young woman who is strong, resourceful, angry, and yet vulnerable is more than deserving of her best actress wins at both the Stockholm Film Festival and Vancouver Film Critics Circle awards. She is certainly a performer to watch.
Mozaffari displays a masterful control of imagery. The film is full of thoughtful shots that mirror the psychic and emotional spaces the protagonists occupy. Often, these images are both beautiful and visceral with a strong focus on physicality. Bodies, young female bodies, are everywhere.
One of my favorite elements of film is music. Most of my favorite films are those that use dissonance between image and sound to evoke feeling or emotion in the audience. Firecrackers is one of those few films that know how to make this dissonance not just effective emotionally, but thematically. For example, during one of my favorite scenes in the film, Lou and Chantelle are goofing off in a car wash late at night after a wild evening. They are acting like the youth they are: pretending to shoot one another with pressure washers and laughing. It’s a light-hearted image rendered dark by a soundtrack that verges on ominous. Their laughter becomes unsettling and the girls’ joy and vulnerability becomes difficult to watch as we, the audience, are forced into the role of voyeur. It is a moment that perfectly reflects the way that the girls are sexualized by those around them.
Firecrackers is also commendable for not shying away from showing how its protagonists’ experiences of their town and the pressures of adolescence differ based on their racial backgrounds and family situations. The film does not back down from showing how these differences complicate the girls’ friendship.
With Firecrackers, Mozaffari has shown herself to be a director to look out for. Smart, lyrical, and cutting, this is the kind of film that sticks with an audience.
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