Starring Zahraa Aldoujaili. In Swedish, Arabic, German, Turkish, Romanian, and Tamil, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
The would-be artists of the title here are amateurs in the best possible sense.
This humanistic little Swedish comedy centres on two teens from immigrant backgrounds, vaguely reminiscent of the matched set from Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart; their life trajectory isn’t set yet, while that air of general superiority masks normal insecurities.
Aida (Zahraa Aldoujaili) and Dana (Yara Aliadotter) are among the only nonwhite residents of Lafors, a fictional, rusty rural town that was once a bustling small-industry hub.
Another outsider is town councillor Musse (Fredrik Dahl), who dreams up the idea of high-school–sourcing a video promoting the little town to German retail conglomerate Superbilly, in talks to open a big store there.
Our duo literally goes to town, shooting everything with their smartphones and selfie sticks. The warts-and-all results are not exactly brochure-ready, and other entries are even worse, from a marketing viewpoint. So the town hires a pro (Jan Cruseman) to sunshine it up. But the girls keep going, and we get to see the wildly divergent footage of both projects, with each managing to annoy people in different ways.
Director Gabriela Pichler, who wrote the loose-limbed script with novelist Jonas Hassen Khemeri, is as interested in class divides as she is in the ethnic kind—especially in a country that prides itself on egalitarian values.
For example, Aida’s Iraqi-born aunt (Shada Ismaeel), a cleaning lady already adjusted to her niece’s boyish self-presentation, gets upset with Dana’s mom (Persin Abdulrahman), a wealthy Turkish journalist who had to flee her own country, for encouraging the girls to risk upsetting those with power over them.
Musse, meanwhile, starts to wonder how Swedish he really is, especially since it means losing touch with his own Tamil mother, who has reverted to her own language in old age.
Amateurs suffers from some of the same indulgences that make the girls’ own movie too long. But it remembers to love what it does, and its affection is contagious.