29th Tokyo International Film Festival: Morris From America (Germany-USA, 2016)

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DARIA GAMLIEL for Cinetalk.net

Thirteen year old Morris is oblivious to the gorgeous German scenery all around him. All he sees is Katrin. The pesky fifteen year old smokes, drinks, and uses recreational drugs. But Morris is no angel either. He swears. He freestyle raps about sex and worldly things he actually knows nothing about. His dad scolds him, but is probably the child’s main source of daily cuss words.

Morris From America (written and directed by Chad Hartigan) is a typical coming of age tale about a boy adjusting to life in a new environment. While learning the language, he also learns how much a foreigner can stand out and be ostracized. Morris is generally a good kid with a good father. However, he is immediately cast out and stereotyped as the one African American kid in the local youth center. Though the racial slurs and gangsta rap foul language are a bit hard to endure, the story has its charm. It showcases innocence, as peer pressure and boredom fight to ruin it. As Morris’s dad as well as his German tutor tell him, youth is worth living. There’s no reason to rush to become an adult. This is a much more rational way of dealing with Morris’s trials and tribulations. Many parental figures tend to punish and talk down to teens, causing them to lose respect for the adults in their life.

Katrin refers to her mother as a female dog and disregards almost everything she says and does. Morris on the other hand, has a sweet relationship with his dad. Pop only really grounds him for having poor musical taste. When most parents would be locking up their teen in their bedroom, Morris’s father tries to understand what’s causing his son’s so-called rebellious behavior.

What sets Morris From America apart from similar coming of age stories, is that it’s conclusion is open-ended. Though it’s not the happy ending we might wish for Morris, it is uplifting and positive. It may not answer all our questions, but that would be formulaic and predictabke. This ending leaves the viewer with lightness and maybe even a smile rather than a heavy heart.

For more info : http://2016.tiff-jp.net/en/

 

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