- Alessio Cremonini’s third feature film juxtaposes a “jihadi bride” with a female Italian reporter taken prisoner by Daesh in Syria
There have been hundreds of Arab and western women who have moved to Syria and Iraq over the past few years in order to join the "Islamic State”, demonstrating Daesh’s great powers of persuasion. What it is exactly that drives these women to join a terrorist group known for its brutal violence, abuse and enslavement of women is still under study. Alessio Cremonini, the director of the courageous and multi-award-winning work On My Skin [+see also:
film profile], also investigates the motivations of these so-called “jihadi brides” in Prophets [+see also:
film profile], distributed in Italian cinemas from 26 January by Lucky Red, juxtaposing two very different women. On the one hand, there’s Sara, played by Jasmine Trinca, an Italian journalist who finds herself in Northern Syria to report back on the war and who is taken prisoner by the men of Daesh along with her escort. On the other, there’s Nur (Italian-Iranian actress Isabella Nefar), the wife of a jihadist, who lives in a training camp and is entrusted with the prisoner.
Sara is disenchanted, an atheist, a feminist and tough, even if she does jump upon hearing bombs go off. Her guard is a female foreign fighter who was radicalised in London and is now wholly devoted to Islamism and the Khalifate. A duel unfolds between the four walls of the house where the wife of the militiaman is confined (unwittingly also a prisoner herself). And it’s clear after a time that her aim is to convert the western woman. There’s something about this film that reminds us of Private [+see also:
film profile], Saverio Costanzo’s effective directorial debut of 2004 whose screenplay was co-penned by Cremonini, no less: the movie revolved around forced cohabitation in an apartment between Israeli soldiers and a Palestinian family, and it was the intimate side of the situation rather than the political side which was explored, with the family torn between the father’s pacifist message and the appeal of violence. In 2013, Cremonini also directed Border [+see also:
film profile], a low budget film about the civil war in Syria, featuring two twenty-five-year- old sisters who are forced to flee to Turkey after one of their husbands deserts the army to join the rebel forces. In Prophets, Cremonini shoots in nigh-on contemplative fashion the body of a western woman which believes itself to be free and which compares itself to its Islamic counterpart, forced to wear the niqab in order to hang out the washing. When it seems that everything boils down to a clash between a non-religion and a huge religion followed by almost 2 billion believers, we’re brought back to reality by the men of Daesh who prove their senseless brutality by burning the reporter’s interpreter alive.
But despite its interesting dramaturgical structure, Prophets fails to engage us and doesn’t pull us into the relationship dynamics that it looks to create. It’s hard to understand what’s going on in the laconic journalist’s head, and, above all, what drove the young woman who was born in Aleppo and who lived in London to such an extreme and uncompromising position.
Prophets is produced by Cinemaundici and Lucky Red with RAI Cinema, in collaboration with Sky Cinema. True Colours are handling international sales.
(Translated from Italian)
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