Looking For Venera (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Norika Sefa brings us this touching coming-of-age drama about two teenage girls (Kosovare Krasniqi and Rozafa Cefaj) growing up in Kosovo.

The handy thing about watching films from cultures you’re unfamiliar with is seeing how they deal with plots and stories you already know. Everybody knows the standard coming of age tale that takes place between two teenage girls, but we normally see it from an American or British point of view, seeing it from a Kosovan point of view is a fascinating change of pace. This new perspective brings with it new challenges, they’re not worrying about their dad buying them an unfashionable car, or not having a date for prom. They’re worried about shaming their family, and their fathers being angry enough to hit them (which does happen in this film).

This is a world in which equality is a dirty word, especially in regards to gender. Sefa shows this through shooting the main character in semi-close ups, instead of her being the focus of the shot, she’s often just on the edge or slightly out of frame, illustrating her position within the family dynamic (and with 3 or 4 generations of family in the same house, that’s an important dynamic for the characters). As alluded to, there are a lot unconventional shot choices in this. You have close-ups where characters move out of frame, and quite a few shots contain a lot of characters in shadows meaning you can’t see them clearly. It kind of works for this, teenage stories should be slightly ramshackle and unclear, because teenagers are.

It’s not perfect, some people won’t like it, and I’m in no rush to watch it again. But I would recommend you see it at least once, just to experience a new take on an old genre. It’s the new take that causes the cliche to mean something. When they mention the nervousness of talking to a boy, it’s got different energy and subtext than that same conversation would have in an American film.

The true key to this are the performers. Not only are they great individually but you feel a real-life friendship between the two, you can easily imagine them hanging out offset. They have undeniable chemistry which makes this film what it is, and what it is is something quite unique.

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