Ludi Captures How US Assimilationism Exhausts and Exploits

By now stories about women on the verge of breakdowns, exhausted by lives that won’t let up, are commonplace. Such a film’s success usually hinges on whether the actress at its core is up to the challenge. The lead of Ludi, Shein Mompremier, is more than game in her portrayal of an immigrant nurse stretched thin, to the point where she often makes up for director/writer Edson Jean and co-writer Joshua Jean-Baptiste’s occasionally stiff and contrived script. There is a real feeling for the space and culture of Miami’s Little Haiti; even within Ludi’s claustrophobic perspective, her frustrating interactions with the people around her, we get a sense of a colorful world beyond her. This is undermined when the film gets too caught up in the back-and-forth between patient and caretaker that makes up the story’s back half.

The brief flashes of both beauty and struggle in Little Haiti, presented via voiceover recorded on cassette tapes, constitute the film’s most engaging and artfully presented facet. Such touches offer Ludi (and by extension Mompremier) a level of interiority and self-reflection that the film badly needs. The film has interesting ideas about how US assimilationism is exhausting and mentally damaging for exploited women, but both that theme and the main character deserve more in depth attention.

Ludi plays as part of BAMCinemaFest through June 29.

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