By Robert St. Martin
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/17/23 – Fresh from an auspicious debut in the “Encounters” section of the Berlin International Film Festival, Kurdwin Ayub’s Sonne will open the 18th annual Southeast European Film Festival (SEEfest) at the Writer’s Guild Theater in Beverly Hills on April 26. Sonne (The Sun), the winner of the Berlinale Best First Feature Award last year, is the debut feature film of Kurdwin Ayub, a Kurdish filmmaker born and raised in Austria. The film bursts with the youthful energy of three teenage girls from Vienna who twerk in hijab and sing a pop song, filming and posting on social media. Staged briskly and as a wild visual mix of styles, the film is a cinematic search for identity for the Tiktok generation.
Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. They live in the Simmering district of Vienna and are about to graduate from high school. One afternoon they record a self-made music video for REM’s song “Losing My Religion.” The catch is that they perform in hijab. They dance, sing and twerk in veils. After the upload, the video goes viral and the three of them are suddenly in demand as wedding singers. But after their 15 minutes of fame, the discussions also begin. Is the video a modern way of dealing with religion or blasphemy? The controversy extends to Yesmin’s family. Her devout mother Awini (Awini Barwari) feels offended and hurt, her secular father Omar (Omar Ayub) is proud of his daughter and senses a deal. With all the hustle and bustle surrounding Yesmin, the father completely overlooks the fact that his son, Yesmin’s younger brother Kerim (Kerim Dogan), also has problems.
Kurdwin Ayub is at home in different worlds, art forms and media. Born in Iraq in 1990 and raised in Austria, she studied painting and experimental animation film as well as performative art. She has made several short films, some of which were awarded prizes, and the long documentary Paradise! Paradise! (2016).
The line-up of films at this year’s 18th annual SEEfest will be available shortly. Co-presented by ELMA, this film festival will run from April 26th through May 3rd at several theatres in the Los Angeles area. This will showcase movies from the culturally rich and diverse countries in the East and Southeast of Europe including the Caucasus countries – with a selection of features, documentaries and short films. Headed up by Vera Mijojlíc, this film festival gives film lovers in Los Angeles a wonderful window into a part of the world that often is overlooked but offers us so much to learn about the human condition. This year at the opening night gala, SEEfest will be giving the 2023 Legacy Award to Otto Constantin Nemenz, legendary founder of the camera rental company and the Hollywood expert on cameras and lenses.
For SEEfest Festival passes, schedule, and tickets, go to: seefest2023.eventive.org