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You Resemble Me screens as part of the SLOIFF 

Co-writer Dina Amer—in her directorial debut—helms this story about two young Arab sisters (played by real sisters Lorenza and Ilonna Grimaudo) living with their neglectful mother in Paris. After the girls are taken from their mother by social services and separated, the film follows the elder sister, Hasna (played by Amer, Sabrina Ouazani, and Mouna Soualem) as she suffers in poverty, experiences racism and misogyny, and struggles to find a sense of belonging in a country that doesn't seem to want her. (91 min.)

click to enlarge SISTERHOOD Mariam (Ilonna Grimaudo) and Hasna (Lorenza Grimaudo) are two young Arab sisters living on the streets of Paris, and after social services separates the two, the older experiences a dangerous transformation into radicalization, in You Resemble Me, screening as part of the SLOIFF. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OTHRS AND ARTEMIS RISING FOUNDATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Othrs And Artemis Rising Foundation
  • SISTERHOOD Mariam (Ilonna Grimaudo) and Hasna (Lorenza Grimaudo) are two young Arab sisters living on the streets of Paris, and after social services separates the two, the older experiences a dangerous transformation into radicalization, in You Resemble Me, screening as part of the SLOIFF.
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Glen This is a gut-wrenching film. Amer, who wrote the story with Omar Mullick, was working as a reporter for Vice News and covered the 2015 Saint-Denis raid, in which police say Hasna Aït Boulahcen detonated a suicide vest, becoming the first female suicide bomber in France. The police report turned out to be wrong, and Amer went on a quest to tell the truth about Hasna, conducting 360 hours of interviews over several years with her family and friends. Hasna was certainly radicalized, but Amer's film explores what led her to join jihad. I read that Amer landed a major studio deal but walked away from it because she wanted to preserve her vision. The film depicts Hasna as fiercely loyal to her younger sister, Mariam. She fed her (often through theft) when their mother couldn't, remembered her birthday and stole her a present when their mother didn't, and protected and entertained her as best she could. Separating them devastated Hasna. Mariam was her whole world. As an adult, Hasna is searching for her identity, which is signaled in a really unique way: In scenes of stress, Hasna's face morphs between the three actresses playing her. It's both deeply disturbing and effective. It may not be a joy to experience, but this is a potent film.

Anna It definitely packs a punch. Hasna, Mariam, and their other siblings are subject to cruelty and neglect at the hands of their mother. She's especially cruel to Hasna, who doesn't even have a place in the home even as a young child. It's totally heartbreaking, even more so when Hasna and Mariam are placed in different foster homes. Hasna's life was already in a tailspin, and being thrown into a situation without her sister and into a foster home with people who have absolutely no concept of what her life has been so far does nothing to slow the inevitable crash and burn. When we jump forward in time, we find Hasna doing whatever she needs to do to get by and masking her pain with booze and hard living. She isn't without those who love and want to help her, but the sister she yearns for only seems to become more and more distant. Hasna is desperate to make something out of her splintered reality, and unfortunately what she finds is what leads to the tragic and terrible end to her life and that of many others.

Glen How does someone become radicalized? This film's goal is to show one path. If you're unrooted from your home culture, thrown into a country that doesn't respect or want you, given no opportunities to succeed, and have been stripped of what you love and need by an uncaring system, it's easy to gravitate to a group that says they understand and will accept you. When Hasna sees her cousin Abdelhamid (Alexandre Gonin) on recruitment propaganda, she reaches out, and soon she thinks she's found a home. Instead, her cousin found a tool to use in his jihad. It's a sad, crushing story, and I think it's amazing that after Amer learned she'd gotten her reporting wrong about Hasna setting off a suicide vest, she cared enough to set things straight. This is a terrific, albeit depressing, film.

Anna Hasna is desperate for a purpose. She's falling for Abdelhamid, and he knows he can use that to his advantage to pull her into a web she won't escape from. It's a completely heart-wrenching film. I was gutted. However, it is supremely powerful, well executed, and acted. It's not a light watch, but it is an important one. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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