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Zen In The Ice Rift

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Oct 22, 2019
'Zen In The Ice Rift'
'Zen In The Ice Rift'  

Writer-director Margherita Ferri presents a complex portrait of a young trans athlete in a remote Italian town in "Zen in the Ice Rift."

Zen - known to others as Maia (Eleonora Conti) is a 16-year-old hockey player who is as tough off the ice as on it. The boys on the team give Zen a hard time with insults like "lesbian" and "half-female," but the truth of the matter - as Zen explains it when a classmate lends a sympathetic ear - is that it's not Maia who looks back at Zen from the mirror. Rather, it's the boy that Zen knows himself to be despite his female body.

Because Zen is rejected and bullied by the others on the team, he acts out in aggressive ways, shooting at his main rival, Luca )Ruben Native), with a pellet gun. Luca is the boyfriend of Vanessa (Susanna Acchiardi), who pressures Zen for the loan of a set of keys to the rifugio run in the mountains by Zen's mother (Fabbrizia Sacchi). As it happens, Vanessa and Luca need someplace to go to have sex; Zen could do with Luca laying off him, since the coach is making warning noises about Zen possibly endangering his spot not the Women's National Hockey Team unless ongoing strife between him and the others cools down. A deal is struck between Zen and Vanessa and, in due course, the deal is sealed between Vanessa and Luca.

Only, Vanessa doesn't really like sex with Luca. In fact, she might be far more interested in Zen...

Ferri lays out the storylines with skill, tracing the stress points and lines of fracture between Zen and others in the community so that while nothing that happens is a great surprise, it's still emotionally meaningful. The illustrative use of footage of an iceberg breaking apart further underscores Ferri's concerns (though the analogy is getting a little thin half a third into the movie's hour and a half run time).

There's plenty that gratifies in the film, with Conti's performance anchoring the story. By turns sweet and troubling, "Zen and the Ice Rift" is a story about coming of age as an outsider that follows classical tropes for the genre, but does so with an understated and atmospheric manner that allows the film's emotional hotspots to really flare.

Zen In The Ice Rift (zen Sul Ghiaccio Sottile)

Maia (aka Zen) is a rowdy yet solitary 16-year-old tomboy and the only girl on the local ice hockey-team. She is constantly bullied by her teammates for her masculine attitude. When Vanessa — the beautiful and bewildered girlfriend of the team captain — runs away from home and hides in Maia's family lodge, Maia feels free to trust someone for the first time. Led by the need to break away from the roles that the small community has forced them to play, Maia and Vanessa embark on a journey of self-discovery, an exploration of their gender identity and sexuality, liquid and restless like the troubled time of youth.


Runtime :: 94 mins
Release Date :: Jan 01, 2018
Country :: Italy


Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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