Film — Fatima

The challenges of a Muslim refugee

Directed by Philippe Faucon


When news is reported about Muslim emigrants, usually it’s in the context of refugees or terrorists. We see very little about the challenges Muslim emigrants face in their adopted countries.

Fatima (played by Soria Zeroual) is a divorced Muslim refugee from Algeria living in France and raising her two daughters. Her ex-husband also lives in France, but seems to be financially more stable, which is often the case in any divorce, anywhere. He drives a car and is remarried.

Nesrine (Zita Hanrot), the eldest daughter, is just starting her first year of university at enormous cost to her mother, including pawning her jewelry (it’s unclear if the father contributes). In addition to any financial burden, Fatima cooks for Nesrine and brings the prepared meals to her apartment each week, and also does her laundry.

Souad (Kenza-Noah Aïche) still lives at home and at 15 is in the height of rebellion. She’s incensed at her mother’s long working hours as a cleaning woman, and her inability to communicate in French despite having lived in France since age 20. Fatima seems to have no friends or life beyond her work and her kids. She is rebuffed when she makes a friendly overture to the mother of one of Souad’s friends.

Fatima is a glimpse into the challenges of all of their lives, but particularly the mother’s. She faces discrimination for wearing a headscarf, is studying French but hasn’t mastered it, works exhausting hours at menial jobs, and as if all this weren’t enough, suffers a physical injury.

This is not a happy film, but it’s a hopeful one, primarily due to one small success. But overall it’s a very valid window into the struggle of a refugee feeling alienated and isolated in her adopted country. It was all very romantic for the beautiful young heroine of Brooklyn, but the reality for those emigrating from the Middle East can be considerably more challenging. (Kino Lorber)



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This article is a part of the August-September 2016 Success with Integrity issue of Whole Life Times.