SXSW Film Review:
by Trish Connelly
Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move is a refreshing and eye-opening romantic comedy on the interpersonal relationships between women, family, and diverse cultural backgrounds. Inspired by actual events, the story revolves around Zaynab (Fawzia Mirza), a Pakistani lawyer in her 30’s, acting as caretaker to her recently widowed mother Parveen (Shabana Azmi) by day and trains as a lucha-style wrestler by night. Upon meeting Alma (Sari Sanchez) at a bar one evening, romantic entanglements ensue that in turn lead Zaynab to confront her desires and future due to her mother’s ongoing hopes of finding her a potential husband.
Signature Move succeeds in embracing our vast cultural differences as well as reminds us of the multitude of overlaps our various backgrounds possess in both subtle and significant ways. Reeder and writer Mirza emphasize that each of our various cultural leanings are not meant to be judged as “good” or “bad” or put on a pedestal, but rather something to be celebrated and strive towards a greater understanding of. When switching from a Pakistani romance drama to a Spanish telenovela on TV, Zaynab assumes her mother must be bored due to not understanding a word that’s being spoken, however Parveen connects with the characters’ universal feelings and emotions being displayed, transcendent of the language being expressed. The diverse familial and romantic relationships within the film adhere to balancing a path between loyalty and love towards one’s family and partner as well as finding independence within oneself. When Parveen assumes Zaynab is off meeting a potential male prospect, Parveen asks if this one has potential. “What about me, Mom? Do I have potential?”, Zaynab quips back to her mother, placing the emphasis on her own happiness and autonomy. The film doesn’t shy away from life’s continual complexities, using parallel scenes within the story to juxtapose the past, present and future of familial generations, presenting Parveen’s traditional habits and rituals as well as her being drawn back to reminders of her deceased husband in conjunction with Zaynab’s zest for pursuing a relationship that goes against her mother’s conventional values and go-with-the-flow mentality. Signature Move’s strength lies in telling authentic stories by fostering a multitude of authentic Middle Eastern and Latina voices within its narrative and shines as a must-see within our current cultural and political climate.
Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.