Red Lorry Day 01: Exploring Life through the female lens via 'Tatami' and 'Black Tea'

Karishma Jangid
New Update
Tatami and Black Tea

'Tatami' and 'Black Tea' debuted at BookMyShow's Red Lorry Film Festival. 'Tatami' depicts a judoka's struggle against the Iranian regime, while 'Black Tea' portrays an African woman's inner turmoil in China.

I don’t often watch sports dramas because they don’t excite me. However, you cannot help but be immersed in one if it tugs at your emotions and keeps you on the edge of your seat; Tatami is one such movie.

Mentored by coach Maryam Ghanbari (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), Iranian judoka Leila Hosseini (Arienne Mandi) competes in the Judo World Championship, enjoying a winning streak. However, she's soon asked to fake an injury and withdraw from the competition to avoid facing Israeli judoka Shani Lavi. For context, Iran and Israel are engaged in a shadow war, prompting the Islamic Republic of Iran to frequently advise its athletes to boycott matches against Israelis. Yet, this isn't mere advice; defiance risks brutal consequences, even death, for the athlete and their family. Faced with this dilemma, Maryam urges Leila to feign injury, but Leila refuses. Determined to defy the regime and achieve gold, she puts her career, family, and life on the line. While it may sound cliché, the film is far from one.

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The plot offers a layered depiction of womanhood, particularly under a religious and fascist regime. Maryam and Leila represent two archetypes: one who submits and one who resists. Maryam’s restraint overpowers her anger whereas Leila’s anger flows like lava. Despite their differences, both share a passion for judo and confront gender-based discrimination. Maryam has an elderly mother at home, while Leila is a devoted mother herself. Both must make sacrifices and endure the consequences. Ebrahimi and Mandi deliver impeccable performances, with Mandi's intensity complementing Ebrahami's composure. Mandi’s anger and Ebrahami’s restraint form the crux of the film. 

What's also commendable is that the film refrains from preaching or portraying women as perfect victims. It reveals the delusional nature of fascist fears and allows women to express their anger. Through Leila’s journey, we witness the evolution of a revolutionary, from initial fear to resistance despite it. Each time Leila steps into the arena, you feel a desire to stop her and urge her to protect her family. However, bit by bit, Tatami explains why resistance is a necessity. Eventually, you are left with a sense of doom yet renewed courage; if Leila can do it, so can you.

After watching Tatami, I rushed to another auditorium to secure a seat; film festivals can be hectic. However, watching Black Tea brought calm amidst such chaos. It is a poetic, serene, and mindful delight. However, the film forgets to explore its potential leaving one dissatisfied cinematically. 

On her wedding day, Aya (Nina Mélo) looks the audience in the eye and says no to her fiance. From the Ivory Coast, she then moves to Guangzhou, China, and works at a tea export shop. Her relationship with tea and her boss, Cai (Chang Han), continually blossoms. However, their past and societal stigma bring Aya to a halt once again.

The film feels honest, almost like poetry. The camera work and pacing are calm and reflective. Mélo and Han share a chemistry that's elegant and almost spiritual, making you long for more. The actors show restraint in their performances, yet their emotions shine through. However, some details are unclear, making the film confusing rather than intriguing. It's good that both African and Chinese cultures are portrayed authentically without resorting to stereotypes. The integration of these cultures feels forced though. As an Indian viewer, the cultural barrier made the experience even more difficult. Despite its good intentions, the film falls short in some areas. It introduces interesting characters and cultures but doesn't fully explore their potential. It's like having great ingredients for tea, but the final drink doesn't quite hit the mark.

Tatami, and Black Tea premiered in India at BookMyShow's Red Lorry Film Festival.

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Tatami Black Tea Red Lorry Film Festival