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What to know: Lovely representation of a cultural art form and beauty practice in many South Asian countries.
MEHNDI & ME is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
Recommended age 8-18
7 minutes
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Mehndi & Me is a thought-provoking short film which explores an interesting and less-documented topic. The traditional art of mehndi has little space in the limelight of modern cinematography, and this film provides a fresh take on the South Asian art and culture. It is also interesting to hear from a professional henna artist.

Filmmaker Laura Valtorta uncovers a new world of artistry, camaraderie, and tradition in her exploration of mehndi, traditional South Asian henna tattoos. Laboni Sarkar, a Bangladeshi henna artist, speaks with Valtorta about the permeation of Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani traditions and concepts in Western society and shares the perspective of a first-generation immigrant on her beloved culture.

The story of mehndi is ages old, and Laboni Sarkar outlines what it is, as well as when it is used, and where it comes from. The camera work in this short film is high-quality overall; I especially like the close-up shots of the mehndi application and interview scenes. However, at some points, the cameraman's head is seen in the shot. I noticed, during a close-up shot of Sarkar, the camera seems to dip down and shake for a bit, and then stabilizes. There are no costumes per se except that Sarkar wears a beautiful green sari, representing her Bangladeshi heritage. The entire film was shot at Laura's house, in Columbia, SC, during a mehndi application appointment with Laboni. I like the lo-fi feel of the set, but the lighting could have been a bit better, as could have the sound quality. I love the Bengali songs playing in the background. They provide a serene and yet elegant quality to the film.

Laura Valtorta is the director, producer and writer. Lynn Cornfoot is the editor and creates a wonderful viewing experience. But, Laboni Sarkar stands out the most as an expert on Bangladeshi culture and mehndi. Her showcased talents and casual camera presence are great additions to this film. This film promotes cultural awareness and understanding.

As a South Asian American, there is little I don't know about South Asian culture, but this short film taught me several new things about mehndi. I love the soundtrack - a Bengali song picked out by Laboni Sarkar. It is elegant and befitting to the film. I give Mehndi & Me 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It promotes cultural awareness and learning more about other cultures, which is a great aspect to include at film festivals in such a multi-cultural, diverse age as 2020 and in the melting pot nation we live in. This would play well in the USA, as well as in other countries. Reviewed by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Criti

Mehndi & Me is a beautiful representation of a cultural art form and beauty practice in multiple South Asian countries. It's short and sweet and also brings awareness to an underrated form of art. The film tells the story of a woman named Laboni Sarker who is a Bangladeshi immigrant and does mehndi (temporary henna tattoos).

I like how this film tells the story of Laboni and her history with mehndi but, it goes on a tangent about the daughters and their dance. If the film was longer, they could afford to do that, but in a short film like this it's an unnecessary distraction that takes from the main theme of the film.

The interview style segments of this film allow Laboni to tell her story. However, the scenes feel a little random - as if they are similar enough to be thrown together. Most of the people in the film are wearing everyday clothing except Laboni who wears a sari which makes her standout and it represents her culture, which is appropriate. The film is set in what appears to Laboni's house where she practices mehndi. The background music, by Laboni, it captures the cultural feeling and fits well with the subject of the film. The key influencers are Laboni, her daughters and the three women who are getting their Mehndi done. They drive the story through their interaction. The questions prompt more storytelling and gives a better insight into the mehndi.

This is a nice tribute to the art form and brings awareness about mehndi. I have taken classes in mehndi design when I visited India a few years ago. It was basic mehndi design and this film sparked an interest in me to take up the practice again and try some more advanced designs. My favorite part of the film is when the woman asks Laboni's daughters if they dance and if other girls comment on their mehndi. I can relate to both of these things in my life, which is sweet, as it means I can share similar experiences with other girls like myself.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 14. We need more cultural representation in mainstream media and films like these are a start to make that a norm. The next generation should grow up in a world where they can see themselves on TV and relate to characters they see. This film qualifies as Asian American and multi-cultural in focus.

Reviewed by Anokhi L, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

A lawyer living in South Carolina discovers camaraderie through henna tattoos.
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