Program 14: Zen in the Ice Rift (Zen sul ghiaccio sottile)Directed by Margherita Ferri
In Italian with English subtitles.
Coming out to yourself and then others is always filled with trepidation at best. Often it’s even more intimidating when you live in a small rural village. Set in the snow-capped panorama of the Apennine Mountains in Italy, Zen in the Ice Rift introduces us to Maia – who prefers to go by Zenasi, or Zen for short – a talented, androgynous hockey wing who’s competing with the boys on the local team and aspiring to move up to the regional camps, and maybe even the national team. Eleonora Conti’s debut performance as Zen nails the character of a pensive loner who is badgered and bullied for not being “female” enough. Despite easily being as talented and quick as their teammates, Zen has to fight being tyrannized for being different and having the audacity to merit a place on the town’s all-male team.
Paralleling Zen’s plot line is that of Vanessa (newcomer Susan Acchiard), the girlfriend of the hockey team’s captain who’s struggling with her own questions surrounding sexual attraction. In order to spend an intimate time with her boyfriend, she coerces Zen into lending her the key to the lodge Zen’s mother rents out. But after a disastrous “first time,” Vanessa runs away from home the next day, and returns to the lodge in an attempt to sort out her emotions. It’s only then that she and Zen slowly form a bond as outsiders, and as their defenses come down they start to share their most deeply felt selves. Vanessa attempts to clarify her true sexual attraction and Zenasi knows that he’s really Zen – a young man – and grows deeply dysphoric when he looks in the mirror, knowing that his reflection contradicts his true self. What we witness is a dual coming-of-age, and the paths they each take fills out the remainder of the film, and echoes a search for clarity that we each must also struggle to find.
Margherita Ferri directs this visually enticing film and thankfully doesn’t fill it with transgender tropes and the all-too-often sensationalized focus on transitions. That fact, combined with Conti’s powerful performance as Zen, makes the film an uplifting and spirited “must see.”
~ Jennifer Morgan
Awards & Accolades
- Jury Award, Honorable Mention: Best First Feature – Frameline SF Int’l LGBTQ+ Film Festival
- Official Selection – Venice Film Festival
- Official Selection – GAZE Int’l LGBT Film Festival Dublin
- Official Selection – Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival
- Official Selection – OUTshine Film Festival (Miami)
- Official Selection – Mardi Gras Film Festival Sydney