On the same weekend that Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay snagged the Nos. 1 and 2 box-office slots with their megabudget films Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, respectively, a smaller, more intimate but nonetheless groundbreaking film debuted at the SXSW Film Festival on Sunday. Jinn is a compelling and nuanced story about Summer, a teenage girl with dreams of becoming a dancer (played by The Quad’s Zoe Renee) who questions everything about her life when her meteorologist mother, Jade (played by Luke Cage’s Simone Missick), suddenly converts to Islam.
Writer and director Nijla Mu’min, who trained in both Howard University’s famed MFA film program and CalArts’ MFA program, has been on the festival circuit since 2011. This year is her first time attending SXSW, the 10-day annual conference in the wonderfully weird city of Austin, Texas, where tech, music, art and film converge in a series of workshops, panels, screenings, pop-up concerts and parties.
Her debut is meaningful for several reasons: She is a black female filmmaker working in an industry that often marginalizes black women behind the camera. She is also Muslim, and her film brings forth a nuanced and compelling look at Muslim families and communities at a time when the media often portrays followers of the faith as either one-dimensional villains or doesn’t portray them at all. She is also a filmmaker from Oakland, California, and 2018 has been a banner year for films released by directors from the Bay Area, including Boots Riley’s highly anticipated Sorry to Bother You, Daveed Diggs’ Blindspotting and, of course, Coogler’s Black Panther, which recently crossed the $1 billion box-office mark.
Jinn‘s final screening at the SXSW Film Festival will take place Thursday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — South Lamar in Austin.
Danielle A. Scruggs is a photo editor for The Undefeated. She is a Chicago native and firmly believes no sports team will ever be as great as the Chicago Bulls during their three-peat eras.