Always Amber Review
Presented as part of the Brisbane Queer Film Festival, Always Amber is a documentary following the formative years of Amber Mastracci, a gender non-conforming teen in Sweden.
Directors Lia Hietala and Hannah Reinikainen are given a glimpse into LGBTIQA+ society through the eyes of 17 year old Amber and best friend Sebastian. The film is a compilation of professional camera work, childhood family shots and handheld videos by the protagonists themselves. There is a sense of natural reservation by these teens in front of the directors cameras but the combination with personal film allows the audience to be truly invited into their world. This intimacy is what solidifies the authenticity of the film, removing any feeling of staged production.
The film opens with an idyllic composition of Mastracci home video. More snippets sprinkled throughout the film show Amber maturing from childhood and early teen years. This progression sets the tone for Amber's expression of gender fluidity and relationship with best friend/pseudo brother, Sebastian. Amber and Sebastian finding each other inevitably led them to find themselves. Following the loss of Amber’s father the two are brought ever closer. Chapters split over a number of years aptly depict the complications of life, romance, betrayal and identity. The heart of the story is really in the relationships.
The two are surrounded by LGBTIQA+ community by which they have created their own society, with no norms, no binary boundaries. In this community self expression is accepted in any form. Amber’s outward expression plays with countless different hair dyes, eyebrow shapes, piercings and make up. Amber exudes a level of confidence while continuing to struggle with how they wish to portray themselves, with added complexity of how their gender identify is perceived by others.
This film is unique in its form as solely from one point of view, with a single storyteller. Amber seemingly has full control of the perception the audience is provided. Because Amber has had to learn harsh realities of a binary world from a young age, their level of emotional and intellectual maturity allows the audience to trust the story being told.
Always Amber is a refreshing and realistic take on self-expression, identity and the turmoils of being a teenager.