Jasmine is a Star – Blackstar Film Festival 2022 – Film Review

Cinema has in recent times sought to provide a voice to the under-represented and has attempted to diversify the stories that it tells onscreen which has provided a platform for those from indigenous backgrounds and a range of ethnicities. In spite of this movement, the voice of those from albino communities is still rarely explored upon the big screen. In Jasmine is a Star, we are presented with an insight into the world as experienced through the lens of an albino teenage girl. Jasmine is a Star is a short, its runtime is just under 60 minutes, but impactful journey embracing a coming of age narrative with the added dimension of albinism.

Jasmine is a typical 16 year old young woman attempting to find her place within school and striving to belong within society. However, Jasmine’s needs within school differ to her peers as she has to sit towards the front of the class and is assisted by a teaching assistant. It is also necessary for Jasmine to wear sunglasses indoors during the day to protect her from the additional glare of the screens and the classroom lights as her retinas are particularly sensitive and as an albino she is legally blind and can therefore never be permitted to drive a car. It is insights such as these that provide a nuanced insight to Jasmine’s reality. The teenage journey can be difficult enough to navigate but Jasmine has additional complexities which many people would never have considered, as being able to drive a car or walk around unfettered within daylight is often taken for granted.

Still from Jasmine is a Star, dir: Jo Rochelle. Courtesy of BlackStar Projects
Still from Jasmine is a Star, dir: Jo Rochelle. Courtesy of BlackStar Projects

Jasmine is a Star subtly immerses the viewer in to these considerations as we are often encouraged to consider alternative perspectives and the film forces that confrontation upon its audience. As Jasmine, similar to many teenage girls, harbours an ambition to be a model, we view the process vicariously where she faces micro aggressions in trying to obtain headshots, strangers believe that she is adopted whilst with her parents and she is bluntly ‘othered’ during a photo shoot. Jasmine’s parents are understandably concerned at the treatment of Jasmine in the big wide world and wish to protect her and take away her suffering endured at the hands of others and their cavalier, ignorant attitudes towards her. It is a perspective rarely considered aside from albinos being viewed as villainous in several film themes or, within this film, casually referenced as having otherworldly features.

Actress and model Iyana Leshea delivers a tremendously heartfelt performance as the titular Jasmine in a role that must mirror her own challenges encountered as a model. The film’s lighting and cinematography complement her complexion beautifully and as the film highlights nature, the seasons and being at peace outdoors there is that natural, beautiful complement of colours on screen. The film embraces such richness of nature’s colour palette as Jasmine in several scenes is portrayed walking through parks in admiration of the changing leaves’ colours and feels most at home in her autumn boots rather than the latest fashionable garments.

Jasmine is a Star is a thoughtful, sensitive depiction of a different category of teenage angst highlighting the tendency for people to project their fears of the unknown on to others . Whilst the acting performances differ in range there is no mistaking the enticing quality exuded by Leshea as Jasmine. Her gracefulness is apparent during a storyline that reflects her reality and must have been emotionally gruelling to film. The film will educate us all to consider another diverse perspective and thankfully Leshea has found her niche on the modelling stage to continue to grace us all with her captivating presence. It’s a well told film by director Jo Rochelle and will hopefully achieve a full cinematic release as Jasmine is a Star deserves to be viewed by many.

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