Teen and not heard
"Samia" is a moving drama about Algerian girls in France, growing up modern on the outside and miserable on the inside in a strict Muslim household where they're little more than servants.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Samia is the lowest of the low, and she knows it. At school, she's just another dumb
Arab teenager preparing to be a housemaid. On the street, she's a target of distaste
and harassment from some white French people. And then she gets home, where she's knocked
around by her big, abusive brother Yacine for not being a good Islamic girl. "This is not
America!" he thunders when she comes home late one day, with her "Just Do It" backpack
over her shoulder. "Out there is France! In here is Algeria!" Then when he's done, she
gets chewed out by her mother for upsetting her brother.
As you might expect, the moment they get out of the family's sight, Samia and her sisters change into miniskirts and gossip about boys.
|Written and directed by: Philippe Faucon.|
Cast: Lynda Benahouda, Mohamed Chaouch, Kheira Oualhaci, Nadia El Koutei, Yamina Amri, Lakhdar Smati, Farida Abdallah Hadj, Naima Abdelhamid, Amel Sahnoune.
In French and Arabic with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site
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Samia, unfortunately for her, is even the youngest and least powerful of the women in the family. Samia's older sister Amel bolts to live with her French boyfriend at the first opportunity, and her sister Farida is in thinly veiled rebellion as well. She works hard at school just because it annoys her completely uneducated immigrant parents, and she vows to go on to college "just to piss them off." Samia is not even old enough to think this way she has years of continued torment ahead of her, which she'll have to face alone.
"Samia" is a stunning drama in a number of ways. It's certainly not the first coming-of-age film to add the element of kids growing apart from their conservative immigrant parents, but it's extraordinary to see what a vast difference in expectations the parents and the children have in this island of strict Islam amid modern, cosmopolitan Marseille.
Within the home, the girls are virtual servants to the men of the house, and when they don't behave properly, their brother who, unlike the girls, still has a heavy accent thinks nothing of beating and kicking them brutally. Meanwhile, the cowering mother's unwillingness to step in earns her the contempt of her daughters. Yet, she has one very interesting moment when she hints to young Farida that she's made it possible for the girl to get her education, which wouldn't have happened back in Algeria. So don't push your luck, she adds.
The tension mounts steadily until even Samia must willfully defy her parents or submit to a life of permanent humiliation. The family conflict has a strong sense of inevitability since the older and younger generations can never find a middle ground. The story is carefully constructed to reach an ending that feels exactly right it's exactly what would have to happen in this situation.
The last amazing thing about "Samia" is that, like a growing number of hyperrealistic French films, it's made entirely with non-actors. (If you read French, take a look at the Official site, which includes information about the cast.) The girls are actual teenagers, one of whom is about to have her first baby. The men are real immigrant laborers, and the weary-looking mom is in fact a mother of eight. Their natural, anguished and passionate performances are astounding.
|MARCH 8, 2001|
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