Written by: Julia Siegel
Film festivals are always full of various types of independent films with stories that we don’t always get to experience in theaters. This is the greatest part of festivals because you can be exposed to new types of filmmaking and genres. Morris From America is not a film I would typically go see in theaters, but I was willing to give it a chance at the Montclair Film Festival. Even though it wasn’t my favorite film of the festival, it was still interesting to be exposed to cultures I don’t know a lot about.
Morris From America follows 13 year-old Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) trying to adjust to his new life in Heidelberg, Germany after he moves in with his father (Craig Robinson), who coaches professional soccer. Morris doesn’t quite fit in with the other Heidelberg teenagers: he likes rap music, everyone else listens to techno. He likes American football, and the Germans are into soccer and basketball. He has trouble communicating since he speaks English and a little German and the other teenagers speak German and some English. Morris and his father are also the only African Americans, and people of color for that matter, in Heidelberg, making it even harder for Morris to fit in.
The film is a coming-of-age story about Morris trying to fit in with the other teenagers. When a German girl, Katrin, starts to unexpectedly give him some attention, Morris is consumed with the idea of impressing her. However, Katrin is the complete opposite of Morris, making it hard for him to gain any common ground with her. Katrin smokes cigarettes, hangs out with older boys, drinks alcohol, takes drugs, goes to parties, and is only 15. Morris initially wants no part of that world, but decides to dabble a little with it to spend time with Katrin. The story is a weird combination of the life of European teenagers clashing with the life of an American teenager wanting to be a gangster rapper.
My biggest problem with the film was the immense amount of inappropriate material that involved children. I thought a lot of the ideals and scenes of the film crossed too many lines, even if it does mirror reality. For me, it was very hard to watch children drinking at parties and doing drugs. It was all a little too much and very off-putting. Maybe if I lived in that world or understood that culture more it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. But, the film quickly turned from interesting to disturbing for me.