Written by Shamir Allibhai, Digital Department, DFI
The first half of the film is almost entirely without references to religion and-political situation that is pervasive in the second half. The first act shows the relationship of the protective Hamid over his brother Yachine and his family in general. Hamid ends up in prison for 2 years on what appears to be trumped-up charges as retribution for a rock-throwing incident at a police officer. Regardless of this particular charge, Hamid is guilty of a number of things and in his absence, Yachine now has to fend for himself and be the man of the household struggling to fill the void.
When Hamid comes back home, he seems to have had an awakening and now embraces Islam. No longer does he deal drugs or drink alcohol or gravitates to being a lout. He is reasonable, diplomatic and soft-spoken. He initiates his brother and his friends into the mosque but soon finds out the Imam has a mission for them. He is still protective of his brother Yachine but now as a mature adult concerned he may have led his brother astray, jeopardizing his life. But it is Yachine who has grown to be vocal and stubborn and he no longer takes instructions from Hamid.
The film is beautifully shot with the script subscribing to brevity is best, using generally the least amount of dialogue though the scenes in the mosque can get a bit heavy. This is the type of film that will leave you with many questions, maybe even some guilt.
One scene I am still not sure how I feel about was seeing the NYC World Trade Centre hit on 9/11. This shot has been used so often, I don’t know if it was necessary plus it conjures such a range of emotions, possibly distracting from the movie at hand. Did we need to see the explosion? I think there are other ways to have communicated the event of 9/11 without showing the actual attack.
The film does a good job to humanize the terrorists in so much as the director definitely comes out against the violence which we can see by the innocent victims who are enjoying their meal and dancing when the restaurant gets attacked. But through the film we see the circumstances including abject poverty that have led to vulnerable young adults embracing violent extremism. And for that, all of us in society are responsible. I am reminded of the line: the rich cannot get richer so long as the poor get poorer.
I recommend this film and I suspect it will do well, appearing at independent cinemas. Do check it out.