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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Crossing - Review

I was unfortunately not available to attend all events at the 2024 BFI Flare Film Festival and have only been able to catch notable screenings this week. Crossing was on my radar coming off it’s Golden Teddy Jury Award at the Berlin Film Festival this year. It is always such an honour to be able to watch films like this that show me a culture or story that I was unfamiliar with, really transporting me to a part of the world that i can open my eyes to. I am also always delighted to be able to see queer stories told that highlight or showcase queer artists, whether that be actors or in the crew. Festivals like Flare are so important to keep championing this art, pushing it further into the mainstream. 

Crossing follows the journey that Lia (Mzia Arabuli) goes on, to reconnect with her niece after her sister’s death. She has promised to go and bring her home from Istanbul. Not in explicit terms, but it is implied at the beginning that her niece may have left as she came out as trans and may not have been accepted by her family. Lia lives in Georgia, where Achi (Lucas Kankava) is also living. He is desperate to get out of the life he is living with his brother. He offers to be Lia’s guide and translator for Istanbul, to help her reunite with her Niece, Tekla. 

They set off to cross the border into Turkey and head for Istanbul where Achi has said he knows where Tekla might be staying. When they arrive at this address, they find that none of the girls there have ever heard of a Tekla, bringing their search to a bit of a stand still, not really knowing where to go from there. 

While following Lia and Achi, we also see snippets of Evrim (Deniz Dumanli) , another trans girl living in Istanbul, watching her navigate through her life, and the closeness she is to our main characters, without even knowing. 

The story is quite a broad one, with a small cast of main characters. It spans many themes but keeps focus on the family aspect, with mature explorations of transphobia in these countries. 

At the beginning of the film, it is said that both Georgian and Turkish are non gendered languages. Unlike many languages around it, even extending to European languages, it is not common to find languages with this approach to nouns and pronouns. This aspect makes the setting and theme of the story a really interesting element. Even without such a distinct focus on gender in their speech, there is still quite a lot of prodigious circling around the culture. 

The film is careful to show comradery within the trans community of Istanbul, and even mentions similar in Georgia. This alleviates a lot of the heaviness this film could have had, making it generally enjoyable to watch. Films with stories like this can get bogged down in the darkness so it was nice to see the levity brought to it by this and also through Lia and Achi’s dynamic. They quite often banter back and forth giving them a love / hate relationship that worked for me. 

I do think that Crossing sometimes gets lost in this lightness, failing to deepen relationships between some characters and leaving you without a lot of emotional impact when anything happens. I don’t believe this is the case with all relationships however, because I feel that Evrim creates an instant connection through Dumani’s performance. She is so genuine in every moment of screen time that it feels effortless for her. Arabuli has been rightfully praised for her portrayal as Lia but for me, Evrim was the standout character. 

This film does a lot to create an intimate look, staying with our characters and knowing where to put the camera. The standout in the technical side was the score for me, that incorporated a lot of styles harkening from regions like Istanbul. Personally it is not music that I am privy to a lot of the time, so I was delighted to be able to hear these different sounds and watch chacarera dance to this together. I think these scenes added so much to the connection of the characters. 

Crossing is a film that I feel will unfortunately go under the radar, and I hope to be wrong but the nature of smaller films like this tend to come and go. Even if this doesn’t reach the widest audience, I feel as though it’s impact will be felt by those who do get the opportunity to watch it. It has been picked up by Mubi who I hope can use their well established reputation for quality to further this film’s reach.


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