Tigermilch [Tiger Milk] (2017)

Director: Ute Wieland
Writer: Ute Wieland
Based on: Stefanie de Velasco‘s novel
Cast: Flora Thiemann, Emily Kusche, David Ali Rashed, Narges Rashidi, Emil Belton, August Carter, Eva Löbau, Thorsten Merten
Seen on: 14.7.2021

Content Note: racism

14-year-old Jameelah (Emily Kusche) and Nini (Flora Thiemann) are best friends, spending every available minute with each other. Now the summer holidays are looming and they both decided to lose their virginity. Jameelah is hoping for Lukas (August Carter) and Nini for Nico (Emil Belton). But another thing is looming over both of them: Jameelah and her mother Noura (Narges Rashidi) are immigrants from Iraq, desperately waiting for their German citizenship. When the two girls become witnesses to a crime, it throws them and their friendship off balance, though.

Tigermilch gets a lot of things right, but it also tries to take on a little too much and doesn’t do everything justice.

The film poster showing Jameelah (Emily Kusche) and Nini (Flora Thiemann) with their arms around each other. Nini is showing her middle finger.

Tigermilch has a good sense of energy and an emotional exuberance that fits very well with the teenagers it portrays. Kusche (who, as far as I know, does not have Iraqi roots herself) and Thiemann feel very believable in their friendship, too and it is really joyful to watch their anarchistic romp through the city (that includes thievery and dabbling in sex work, both of which the film portrays with a matter-of-factness that isn’t interested in judgement).

As much as the two girls have in common, and as much as they do everything together, the film is also very clear how much more vulnerable Jameelah’s position is compared to Nini’s, just because she doesn’t have German citizenship. Anything that Jameelah does could be counted against her application, against her right to remain in the country she calls home and it’s a huge insecurity that colors her every decision – even if she is a teenager who can’t just not break any rules at all.

Jameelah (Emily Kusche) and Nini (Flora Thiemann) hooking their pinkies.

This would have been more than enough to deal with in the film, but on top of that we get an honor killing (the portrayal of which felt too rushed and definitely too stereotypical to add much to the film), and a teenage pregnancy (that feels almost like an afterthought) with two cousins involved (what the fuck?). It’s a lot – and less would have probably been more here. Especially since it starts to feel a little voyeuristic – middle-class Germands fantasizing about lower-class Germans and German migrants.

That being said, emotionally the film works and it certainly pulls you into the world of its two protagonists. While I do think that a critical view on it is necessary, I did enjoy it overall.

Jameelah (Emily Kusche) and Nini (Flora Thiemann)  running through the city in kneesocks.

Summarizing: not bad.

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