REVIEW: Nefta Football Club [2019]

I’m going to piss in Algeria. Two men (Lyès Salem‘s Salim and Hichem Mesbah‘s Ali) are searching for a mule. Two boys (Eltayef Dhaoui‘s Mohamed and Mohamed Ali Ayari‘s Abdallah) are on their way to a makeshift desert soccer field to have a match with the friends when they come across the animal standing on the Tunisian/Algerian border. Mohamed doesn’t have time to deal with his little brother’s excitement at finding the surreal scenario that is an abandoned mule listening to music through headphones, but he checks what’s in the…

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REVIEW: Brotherhood [2019]

Promise me that you’ll never go there. Terrorism is a complex topic too many gloss over in a desire to pretend it’s simple. We generalize and make blanket declarations against an enemy all while refusing to even attempt to understand where they’re coming from. So we of course would never accept the reality that it’s often our own actions that ultimately ignite theirs. It’s why Zionists in Israel label Palestinians terrorists despite being the ones who stole their land. It’s why Americans adopt xenophobic ideologies that lump good people in…

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REVIEW: For Sama [2019]

I don’t regret anything. After five years of footage depicting the rapid decline in Aleppo as college protests turn to rebellion with a dictatorial regime finding friends in Russia to decimate innocent civilians it intentionally refuses to differentiate from soldiers and extremists, Waad al-Kateab realizes that the snippets she’s uploaded to expose these atrocities to the world on YouTube are just as important for Syrians to remember what was and what happened. It’s about the uncertainty of whether you’ll see another day. The futility of watching friends and loved ones…

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OIFF19 REVIEW: Mafak [Screwdriver] [2019]

I didn’t even cry. You hate to think of the United States as a warzone and yet that’s exactly what it is in many respects. Whether a for-profit prison system leaving a largely Black population disenfranchised, unemployable, and haunted or caged children who crossed the Southern border for asylum only to be scarred by the psychological torture of being indefinitely ripped from their parents, minorities across our country are being held as prisoners of war without any concrete conflict on the books. Multiply this tragedy by a thousand and you…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: 1982 [2019]

Don’t invite the war into our home. Before 2007, all Lebanese men were conscripted to serve in the military for at least one year. I’ve heard from multiple people that it wasn’t a question of citizenship, but ethnicity. If I ever visited before that year, I wouldn’t have been able to return to America without fulfilling that obligation. Whether or not this was actually true—I’m not certain. But even if it wasn’t, all the children born there during a lengthy civil war against Syrian occupation and an eventual Israeli invasion…

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VENICE19 REVIEW: Les épouvantails [The Scarecrows] [2019]

You’re not lost. It begins in a prison cell with a despondent Djo (Joumene Limam) scribbling words on paper as Zina (Nour Hajri) implores her to stand so they may leave. Salvation comes in the form of a lawyer (Afef Ben Mahmoud‘s Nadia) and doctor (Fatma Ben Saïdane‘s Dora) desperate to figure out what has happened and how they were able to return to Tunisia. Details about this question only start to come into focus as Nouri Bouzid‘s Les épouvantails [The Scarecrows] progresses with the explanation that the two women…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: My English Cousin [2019]

I am cooked to perfection. It’s been seventeen years since Fahed Mameri left Algeria to achieve a better life in England. Since then he has settled in Grimsby (a place with high unemployment and little infrastructure to sustain a healthy living), married an Englishwoman, and found two jobs with which to earn barely enough money to pay the rent. Because his dream of prosperity hasn’t quite worked out, nostalgia for family and the more conservative lifestyle of their African nation instills a desire within to return. His mother is growing…

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TIFF REVIEW: کفرناحوم [Capharnaüm] [Capernaum] [2018]

Because I was born. The synopsis doesn’t lie. Young Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is in prison, his five-year sentence just put into effect. He has no papers despite being born in Lebanon and thus a doctor must estimate his age by his lack of baby teeth as twelve. But here he is anyway for a crime his mother dismisses as “childish,” a label the judge scoffs at considering the term’s length. It’s no wonder then that Zain has called this latest trial to sue his parents for neglect. Worse than…

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REVIEW: Aala Kaf Ifrit [Beauty and the Dogs] [2017]

What law forbids a human being from seeing a doctor? Fear should never be underestimated as a means for oppression or motivation because there are few emotions more potent. This is why totalitarian regimes use it as a weapon to silence those who dare find the courage to stand up for their rights. They sow fear into the masses, using it to gather support for new laws pretending to protect citizens that actually just insulate those in the position to make them. And if a rebellion somehow proves successful, adjustment…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Of Sheep and Men [2017]

“In this country, the big fish eat the small fish” It’s the cusp of Eid in Algiers, Bab el Oued circa 2016 and the rams are running wild. Well, not wild per se considering each is bought, sold, and always owned. They seem to be a huge staple in this impoverished town as a means for wool, meat, and entertainment. Yes, along with all the usual uses you could think of for the animal (including a sacrifice to Allah) is a prevalent fight circuit where competitors seek out new opponents…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: شيخ جاكسون [Sheikh Jackson] [2017]

“You can’t guarantee living till tomorrow” The thing I could never wrap my head around religious-wise is the idea of strict right and wrong. As a Catholic it’s somewhat easy as far as sin and repentance. You’re allowed to do a lot as long as you feel remorse and guilt enough to learn your lesson. But other religions are more stringent than Ten Commandments and more vehement in how each version of its worship follows its specific edicts. There’s no better place than the Middle East to see this in…

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