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Wadjda-Movie Review *** 01/24/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Arabic language film, BAFTA Awards, Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, Satellite Awards, Vancouver International Film Festival.
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Wadjda (Saudi Arabia) 2012 ***

Written and directed by Haifaa Al Mansour
Starring Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Film-Non-English Language, BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Best First Feature, Independent Spirit Awards
NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture-International Film, Satellite Awards
WINNER, Freedome of Expression Award, National Board of Review, USA
WINNER, Most Popular International First Feature, Vancouver International Film Festival

Wajdja (Mohammed) is a feisty ten-year-old girl who attends a strict girls’ school in Saudi Arabia. Wajdja wants to get a bicycle, but her mother (Abdullah) patiently explains that girls aren’t supposed to ride bicycles.

When Wajdja, who is not a very dedicated student, hears about a prize competition at school, she is determined to win so that she can buy a bicycle for herself.

According to IMDB, Wajdja was both the first feature-length film set entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film by a female Saudi director. The story, while set within such a conservative society, is lighthearted and often outright funny. Mohammed’s Wajdja is charmingly recognizable as a typical high-spirited and stubborn pre-teen girl.

Highly recommended. ***

98 min. Rated PG.


A Prophet-Movie Review 10/23/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Arabic language film, Cannes Film Festival, Dark Drama, David di Donatello Awards, French language film, Golden Globes, London Film Festival, Thriller.

A Prophet (French) 2009
Un prophète

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Foreign Film, British Independent Film Awards
WINNER, Grand Prize of the Jury; NOMINATED, Palme d’Or, (both for Jacques Audiard), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER and NOMINATED, Numerous Awards, including Best Actor (Rahim); Best Director (Audiard); Best Cinematography, César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best European Film, David di Donatello Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Film, London Film Festival

Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, and Adel Bencherif

Growing up in France with no family, Malik (Rahim) spent his early years in reform schools. At nineteen, he is put into prison for six years for assaulting a police officer. Malik is of Arab descent and speaks both French and Arabic. To survive in prison, he becomes errand boy to mob boss César (Arestrup) and is eventually forced to commit horrendous acts of violence both inside and outside the prison. Although he has to undergo humiliation and isolation with this arrangement, Malik learns how the mob world works.

Malik experiences prophetic visions and “visits” from one of his murder victims. He eventually takes advantage of his prison time to educate himself to read and write. When the tides of power change and César loses most of his henchman, Malik is near the end of his term. Despite all the odds against him, he survived.

This is a long film and not for the faint of heart. The violence is ongoing and explicit; the conditions of the prison are horrifying. Tahir Rahim, a newcomer, manages to maintain Malik’s inner dignity. Rahim received many accolades (see above) as did director Jacques Audiard.

149 min. Rated R. Violence, sexual content, nudity, language, and drug content.


Raja-Movie Review 12/02/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Arabic language film, Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Movies.
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Raja (French/Arabic/Moroccan) 2003

Among other awards and nominations:
Official Selection, New York Film Festival; Toronto International Film Festival; Seattle International Film Festival
Winner, Marcello Mastroianni Award, Venice Film Festival
Winner (Najat Benssallem), Best Upcoming Actress Award, Venice Film Festival; Best Actress Award, Marrakech International Film Festival; Nominated, Best Upcoming Actress, César Awards (French Academy Awards)

From Film Movement
Directed by Jacques Doillon
Starring Pascal Greggory as Frédéric and Najat Benssallem as Raja

Frédéric, a wealthy middle-aged French man living in Marrakech, becomes obsessed with Raja, one of the poor young women who work in his garden. Raja does want to leave the life she has been living, but she doesn’t necessarily want to be with an older man.

Although they don’t speak the same language, somehow Frédéric and Raja start to understand each other very well. Their relationship can be simply described: he wants sex, she wants money. Both are incredibly manipulative, but Fred (whom Raja disparagingly calls Frenchy) turns into an emotional cripple as the relationship progresses.

The disparity between their lifestyles makes Raja’s motives understandable, but her true emotions are more difficult to fathom. I was left wondering whether she really fell in love with Fred.

Two telling quotes from the story:
From Youssef (also known as Scooter), who is Raja’s boyfriend: “I’m totally confused by all this. I’m going nuts.”
From Fred: “When she needs money, she’ll be back.”

You might recognize Pascal Greggory from other French films (such as La Vie en Rose), but this was Najat Benssallem’s award-winning screen debut. She does herself proud.

112 min. Not rated. Some sexual content.


The Daughter of Keltoum-Movie Review 04/02/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Arabic language film, Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Movies.
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The Daughter of Keltoum (Arabic/French) 2001

Winner, Kodak Award (Mehdi Charef), Mons International Festival of Love Films, Belgium

Written and directed by Mehdi Charef
Starring Cylia Malki, Baya Belal and Jean-Roger Milo

Rallia (Malki) is a young woman who leaves Switzerland to visit her homeland in Algeria from which she was adopted as an infant. She has returned to find her birth mother but meets up only with her aunt (Belai) and elderly grandfather. Rallia is frustrated by the harsh treatment of women in the tribal areas and by the inability to get things accomplished in what Westerners would consider a reasonable manner. Her world is turned upside down by what she finds out about herself.

A good story with beautiful views of the desert landscape. The music, especially during the closing credits, touched my soul.

101 min. Not rated. Adult themes.