Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema | High School Outreach
Both a sensitive, perfectly acted coming-of-age tale and a razor-sharp critique of the exploitative "all-inclusive" tourism industry, Neus Ballús’ drama follows 17-year-old Marta (newcomer Elena Andrada, a natural) as she reluctantly embarks on a Christmas holiday in Senegal with her travel agent father (Sergi López) and grumpy brother (Ian Samsó). Circling through the frustrating, complex family dynamics of rebellious youth trying to shrug off the yoke of family relationships without always understanding the responsibility of their actions, Ballús tracks the tensions of geopolitical structures weighing down on every possible relationship.
New worlds open up for Marta when she goes beyond the "staff only" doorway, befriending Khouma (Diomaye A. Ngom), a local who shoots home movies of and for the tourists, and Aissatou (Madeleine C. Ndong), a chambermaid, and experiencing a more of the "real" Senegal than she can by lounging by the hotel pool. But even with the best of intentions, Marta’s thoughtless decisions (borne out of teenage ignorance and class privilege) have a drastic aftershock through the new world she’s "discovered." Crafting a balanced, empathetic coming-of-age story with an assiduous eye, Ballús uses her directorial skill to skewer neo-colonialist attitudes in the process.
"The film’s defining strength may be Ballús’ rare ability to wield compassion for each one of her imperfect characters without making excuses for any of them." - Jessica Kiang, Variety