You Resemble Me

Reviewed by Vaughan Ames

Last Sunday we had what proved to be one of our highest rated films of the year. 'You Resemble Me' was an attempt to look behind the headlines to see how and why a young girl was radicalised by ISIS in France in 2015; was she just a terrorist or were there other factors behind what she did?

Dina Amer, the director, was a journalist who reported on the terrorist attacks in Paris when Hasna Aït Boulahcen, a young French woman of Moroccan descent was accused of being the first female suicide bomber. When it later turned out that she had been killed by the bomb, but did not want to be there, Amer went to meet Hasna's family and came to the conclusion that it was a story about a dysfunctional family more than anything. She decided to make a fictional film about this rather than a documentary – to allow her to bring the audience into the skin of Hasna. 'You Resemble Me' was the result, and what a result!

The film follows Hasna and her sister as small children roaming the streets of Paris because their mother threw them out. Eventually social services intervene and split the two children to different foster families; this was the start of Hasna's disintegration, as she goes from troubled child to fun-loving teenager,to drug addict and seller, to unloved adult; no-one seems to want her, everyone abuses her. Eventually the only person that offers her hope is her cousin who she sees on the TV when he has become a recruiter for ISIS. We see her don the full burqa and go to help her cousin; but she is still looking for love, for family, and appears not to realise what they are plotting until it is too late...

The film was very moving and left the audience realising how much we read just the headlines, and not the story behind the story; in the discussion afterwards, the film was compared to the plight of Shamima Begum. In the words of the director, 'The mission of this film is not to excuse her choice but to examine how she arrived at that decision. The intention of this exploration is that it can help inform us, as a society, how to safeguard other individuals from falling into the same traps'. I think the Keswick audience will agree that she succeeded.