Wednesday, November 22, 2017

ADIFF ’17: Woven

About fifty people die every year from jumping or getting pushed onto New York subway tracks.  It represents an extremely low level of danger, but it is far more real than the lingering bogus Aspartame cancer scare. Eleni Tariku would know. Her brother met his death on the subway tracks, but how he got there is a mystery in Nagwa Ibrahim & Salome Mulugeta’s family drama Woven (trailer here), which screens during this year’s African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York.

Dr. Abell Tariku (“A.T.”) is called away from his mother’s birthday party, but he will never make it to the hospital. Of course, this would happen in the only five square foot area of New York not covered by security cameras. His death absolutely devastates his mother Smra, but in some ways, it falls even harder on Eleni. Nevertheless, she will try to get on with her life. That means returning to work as a school councilor and evading her mother’s efforts to fix her up.

Charley Thompson is her latest hard-case client. His unemployed father Logan and alcoholic nurse mother Mila fight like cats and dogs juiced up on steroids. Logan is the one Tariku knows, because he is the one who has time to attend school meetings. Charley’s frequent acting-out necessitates several such conferences, allowing an opportunity for a mutual attraction to grow between councilor and parent.

Of course, everything is connected in Woven, as the title and Gary Sinise in CSI NY would suggest. In fact, it is almost too neat and tidy, especially considering how many millions of people live and act suspiciously in de Blasio’s New York, especially in Brooklyn. Nevertheless, it is rather refreshing to see a healthy, loving sibling story on-screen, even if it is cut short during the first act. It is also quite novel to see the Ethiopian Orthodox Church portrayed in a favorable light, but it is certainly a welcome development.

Co-director Mulugeta is an absolutely radiant presence as Eleni Tariku. She also develops some potent chemistry with Ryan O’Nan’s scruffy but fiercely protective Logan Thompson. Frankly, he covers an impressive emotional range during the course of the film. Tibebe Solomon Borga also makes an impression in limited screen time as the ill-fated A.T.

Woven is a mature film about family and forgiveness, but it sometimes overindulges in melodramatic flourishes and coincidental contrivances. Still, it is set in Brooklyn, where contrived melodrama is hardly unusual. Recommended for inclusive, faith-and-family oriented viewers, Woven screens this Saturday (11/25) and Sunday the 5th, as part of the 2017 ADIFF.