Directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green and co-written by Green and Zora Howard, Premature centres around the growth and pleasures of a young black woman. This grippingly sincere film will screen at HIFF – Love & Anarchy in September.

Harlem, New York. The scorching summer heat gets the bees buzzing and flowers blooming. Even though all of her peers and even grandparents have their minds set on love and sex, 17-year-old Ayanna (Zora Howard) has decided to spend her last summer before college focusing on her poetry and friends instead. But then comes along the handsome and charmingly sensitive Isaiah (Joshua Boone).

Directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green and co-written by Green and the actress/poet Zora Howard who plays Ayanna, Premature portrays a painfully authentic tale of two young people falling in love. There’s insecurity within the confidence of their body language, profound emotions are depicted through poetry and music as well as altercations. While the passionate scenes between the couple linger on, the summer in the background fleets toward fall.

Rarely can a black viewer fully immerse themselves in a film and forget about the world divided into whiteness and otherness.

Rarely can a black viewer fully immerse themselves in a film and forget about the world divided into whiteness and otherness. Green and Howard’s film acknowledges the effect social constructs have on the life of a young black person without overtly emphasising discussion on race. This topical discourse is beautifully woven on to the universal and timeless topics of first love and coming of age. This is why Premature and its backdrop of Harlem in the 2010s can be relatable to viewers with different backgrounds as they can identify with the emotions and situations faced on the brink of adulthood.

Seldom is a film as accurately named as Premature. Untimely, immature, unripe, hasty – dozens of different meanings can be designated for the word and each one lends a fresh point of view for the events and themes of the film. Interestingly enough, the title Harlem, My Love was also considered for the film. The film, which undoubtedly got the more multifaceted choice of the titles, has its namesake in a thematically similar short-film from 2008, which is also directed by Green and stars a young Howard.

Everything centres around Ayanna’s pleasures, Ayanna’s growth and Ayanna’s future.

Shot on the soft and grainy 16mm film, Premature tells its story in an intimate way – almost as if straight from the pages of Ayanna’s diary. Even though the film has a male director, the story itself is carefully constructed from the point of view of a young black woman, and the acts are paced by Howard’s verses written specifically for the film. Everything centres around Ayanna’s pleasures, Ayanna’s growth and Ayanna’s future. Besides young love, the passionate summer also teaches something about love between friends, a mother’s love and loving yourself.

Original Finnish text: Victoria Odum
Translation: Aki Pitkäkoski