Jezebel @ SXSW – Visions Section

Based on a true story, this is director/screenwriter Numa Perrier’s story. It took her a while, understandably, to be ready to share it with the rest of the world. She and her film present a twist on the typical coming of age story. Sisterhood plays a big part here as does black female sexuality, the politics of female pleasure and power’s relationship with exploitation.

Each sister here is living a tough life. Poverty along with no longer having a female role model make things tough. Each is trying to figure out her way in the world while growing into being women. And understanding what that means. What does it mean to be a woman today? Each uses a created fantasy world in order to escape the pressures faced with.

19-year-old Tiffany (Tiffany Tenille – first feature film) is living in a small Las Vegas studio apartment with her sister Sabrina (Numa Perrier – from television’s General Hospital), her daughter and boyfriend David (Bobby Field – 15 Minutes) along with her brother Dominic (Stephen Barrington – The Products of the American Ghetto). Five people in such a small space. They are all there because Tiffany, Sabrina and Dominic’s mother is dying and they want to be close to her.

Her older sister seems to be the only one working. Sabrina works as a phone sex operator. Tiffany realizes she needs to make some money of her own. When becoming a fetish cam girl, suggested by Sabrina, seems like to her an easy way to make money, Tiffany goes to an interview. Not only is she hired, but becomes rather popular as the only black girl working at the adult site she is hired at. Taking on the name of Jezebel, while she is able to be good at her job while maintaining a distance from the clients, one does leave a mark. Bobby (Brett Gelman – The Other Guys, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas), a married man, wins his way into Tiffany’s heart. At the same time, the dynamics between the two sisters begin to change due to a shift in power.

Centered around the intriguing relationship that is sisterhood, nothing is traditional about Jezebel. It is a look at sisterhood which has never been done before. We see two women related by blood who are doing their best in a tough situation to survive, use their sexuality and discover what it means to be a woman.

Despite the fact that film’s setting or situation is rather dark you leave Jezebel with hope. There is some light to be found. This is because Perrier’s has steeped her film with some humour and plenty of sensitivity. Probably can chalk that up to the fact that she lived this story. Yet, that is not what is solely responsible for the success that is this film. Perrier shows herself to be a storyteller. Knowing when to forge forward and when to pull back a little. Pacing, framing and dialogue are all impeccable. Judgement about the women and how they make their money is not to be found here. As a result this is rather feminist film. How women relate and can make money which provides them with financial freedom without feeling shame about how they do it.

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