Hobart William Smith & Tournees Film Festival
May Allah Bless France! is the invigorating first feature by acclaimed French rapper and novelist Abd Al Malik, a coming-of-age story and redemption tale based on the writer-director’s own youth in the beleaguered projects of Strasbourg. The film follows the struggles of Régis, a budding rapper who relies on petty crime to fund his passion for music. But as his fellow musicians get lured into drug dealing, teenage Régis finds salvation in the classics of French literature and his conversion to Sufi Islam.
While Abd Al Malik’s edifying hymn to education and tolerance is first and foremost a boldly idealistic statement, it is also a profoundly satisfying cinematic experience, shot in high-contrast black and white and full of powerful stylistic devices that break with convention to heighten the impact of everyday violence and injustice. Fluidly adapting his talents as a storyteller to the screen, Abd Al Malik revisits the “banlieue film”—the sub genre of films dealing with restless youth in France’s tough suburbs, launched by Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine in 1995—not only to give an insider’s update, but to break with the genre’s suffocating pessimism. In these challenging times for France, and particularly for French Muslims, this intelligent and accessible call for a potential way forward is nothing short of essential viewing.
Abd Al Malik
French w/English Subtitles