France/Morocco, 2008, 84 minutes
Sun, May 3 / 5:45 / Kabuki / FREN03K
Tue, May 5 / 6:00 / Kabuki / FREN05K
Wed, May 6 / 9:30 / Kabuki / FREN06K
“So which are you: French, African, Moroccan or Arab?” This loaded question, posed to the titular ten-year-old of Souad El-Bouhati’s wonderfully assured first feature, has no easy answer, for although young Sofia was born in France and fully embraces her Gallic origins, her North African parents prefer that their headstrong daughter retain the traits and traditions of their homeland. Having lost his job, Sofia’s father whisks the family away from their French suburb and returns to Morocco. Eight years later, Sofia, now a rambunctious university student, divides her time between her dorm room and her family’s olive farm, shuns her mother’s entreaties to marry her fawning boyfriend and pleads with her reluctant father to relinquish her passport so that she can return to the beloved France of her childhood. “If I stay here, I’ll die,” Sofia declares with a desperate passion intrinsic to 18-year-olds the world over, yet the intensity of her identity crisis—so finely observed by El-Bouhati, whose directorial flair and empathy for her protagonist are as palpable as the Moroccan sun—ensure that this particular “French girl” won’t allow geography or family to define her destiny. César Award–winning actress Hafsia Herzi, who made a strong impression in Abdellatif Kechiche’s The Secret of the Grain (SFIFF 2008), imbues Sofia with a winning resilience; she is at once a turbulent cultural renegade and a wise-beyond-her-years seeker of self who recognizes in the lines of Baudelaire’s “L’invitation au voyage” a poetic means of both escape and homecoming.
In French and Arabic with English subtitles. New Directors Prize Contender. West Coast Premiere.