Family connections are at the core of this vibrant directorial debut.

Still from SISTER & SISTER, courtesy of Pluto Film

Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Kattia G. Zúñiga, Sister & Sister made its premiere at SXSW this weekend. Originally titled Las Hijas, the film takes the viewer on a journey with teen sisters Luna (Ariana Chaves Gavilán) and Marina (Cala Rossel Campos) to Panama to try to meet up with their absent father Alfonso. The elder sister, Marina, is jaded and flirtatious, while 14-year-old Luna is more naive and serious. Marina dreams of being a pilot and hopes Alfonso will offer to pay her tuition for flight training; Luna just wants to know the father who left when she was a toddler. The girls stay with a family friend in the city as they attempt to contact their dad.

The story tends to wander. As the girls are in a sort of limbo waiting for Alfonso to reach out, they befriend a group of skaters. There’s a lot of hanging out, but there’s not much momentum to the drama as far as the pacing goes.

Still from SISTER & SISTER, courtesy of Pluto Film

But boy, is Sister & Sister pretty to watch. Colors in Zúñiga’s film really pop. The greens of the grass appear almost neon on screen. Director of photography Alejo Crisóstomo’s shots are artfully composed, from the tight scenes on the bus ride from Costa Rica to the playful park moments. The sound design and Michelle Baldes’s scoring add to the young, modern feel of the work.

Zúñiga’s film reminds the viewer of the awkwardness and jealousy — as well as the catcall culture — teen girls endure. More scenes with the sisters together would have been appreciated by this viewer, but Sister & Sister is a contemplative exploration of this moment in time as the girls grow into themselves.

Sister & Sister premiered at SXSW this week.

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