A nicely observed portrait of a preteen Amsterdam girl, whose unstable personal life contrasts with her incipiently adult, pragmatic demeanor, “Desi” forgoes the usual bleeding-heart treatise on dysfunctional families to show how strangely resilient and self-reliant kids can be. Too full of unanswered questions to be completely satisfying, but rewarding thanks to its unintrusive approach, this audience-award winner at Amsterdam’s recent documentary film festival should attract interest in multicultural TV slots.
Desi is an 11-year-old whose mother committed suicide soon after her birth. At the end of each school day, she checks in by cell phone to see where she is sleeping that night, and is parceled between the homes of her father, her paternal grandmother, her maternal grandfather and her best friend. At the last home, Desi gets an example of real family life. The film draws few solid conclusions, but director Maria Ramos’ matter-of-fact, reflective style makes for absorbing viewing, showing Desi on the surface as a typically carefree girl, but one forced largely to shoulder responsibility for her own welfare.