You Resemble Me (2022)

January 18th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Dina Amer; Cast: Lorenza Grimando, Illona Grimando, Mouna Soualem, Sabrina Cuazani, Dina Amer, Alexandre Gonin, Gregoire Colim, Agnes de Tissandier, Zinadine Soualem; US/France/Egypt 2021, 90 min.

Who was Hasna Ali Boulahcen?. Mistakenly known as “the first European woman suicide bomber” by the media, after a series of coordinated Islamist terrorist attacks that rocked Paris on Friday 13 November 2015, it later turned out that her only ‘crime’ was to flee the building where the terrorists were hiding. A male accomplice detonated Hasna’s suicide vest, bringing to an end her tragic life, and inspiring American-Egyptian journalist Dina Amer to make this passionate feature debut that plays out like a slowly detonating bomb.

The film follows Hasna (9) and Mariam (7), who are played by real life sisters Lorenza and Illona Grimando, growing up in a rough part of Paris where they often steal to survive with their Maghrebi parents: an abusive mother, and a father who is hardly ever there forcing Hasna to take responsibility for her little sister. The social services place them with different foster families and their religious dietary requirements are totally ignored: foster parents (Colim/Tissandier) have no idea that Hasna cannot eat pork. As an adult, Hasna is played by three actors with the help of Deepfake technology: the “party girl” (drugs and sex) is Mouna Soualem, the “assimilated pretty-girl” identity by Sabrina Ouazani. Amer lends her face to the now radicalised freedom fighter.

Mariam is astonished when she sees her cousin Abdel Hamid (Gonin) on TV, talking about joining the fight against the “infidels”. Hasna always dreamt of joining the French Army – but, like many radicalised people – becomes bitter after being rejected by a recruitment officer (Soualem), who is more French than the French themselves. After the “Charlie Hebdo” and “Bataclan” shootings, Hasna calls the French protesters ‘a mindless mass’, setting up the gruesome finale to her life.

Amer finally turns the camera away from Hasna and onto her family with the usual  interviews that express deep sadness. But somehow Hasna as a person still eludes the audience, although she emerges a deeply damaged person. There are simply too many contradictions in the life of a young woman caught up the culture war currently fracturing French society. Hansa emerges an innocent by-stander, driven into hands of male chauvinists who killed her before she could get away.

DoP/co-writer Omar Mullick uses his handheld camera to great effect, tracking the tears of Hasna’s terrible life. You Resemble Me is anything but perfect, but at least it’s authentic, a tragedy that truly reflects life finally becoming more positive as the story unfolds. AS

IN CINEMAS 3 February 2023

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