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5th February 2019 DATCHET VILLAGE HALL

APOSTASY

UK 95mins Cert. PG

Ivanna Siobhan Finneran Director Daniel Kokotajilo
Luisa Sacha Parkinson Writer Daniel Kokotajilo
Alex Molly Wright Screenplay Charlotte Wise
Steven Robert Emms Cinematography Adam Scarth
Doctor
Deborah
Poppy Jhakra
Claire Hackett
Editor
Music
Napoleon Stratogiannakis
Matthew Wilcock

British director Daniel Kokotajilo’s gripping, thorny debut film tackles religious fundamentalism through the lens of an all-female Jehovah’s Witness family. Living in Oldham, single mum Ivanna and her two young daughters, Luisa and Alex, are devout, attending services and going door-to-door to spread the word. However, an act of transgression against their faith’s oppressive rules raises the stakes to dramatic levels. The church’s elders insist on total commitment or expulsion from the community.

Kokotajilo draws on his own experiences as a former Witness to bring intelligence and nuance to the story. His characters are never lambasted for their beliefs, but neither do they go unquestioned. It is a quietly brilliant work that balances the conflicts of three women, and the trio of actresses playing them give stunning performances.

Apostasy poster

The drama moves through the stark interiors of their Kingdom Hall, the family’s terraced house and drab office spaces. The stifling atmosphere echoes the community’s oppressive systems. Close-ups draw us in on moments of silent anguish with an almost voyeuristic intimacy.

For all his craft, Kokotajilo’s greatest triumph is in portraying a community of fundamentalists with such compassion, shining a light on rarely explored subject matter in a way that never feels exploitative. This is a standout British drama that pointedly asks us to question the strictures of institutionalised religion.

Joseph Walsh at www.timeout.com