Review: May Allah Bless France

May Allah Bless France is a work of ultimate auteur filmmaking, not unliked The Perks of Being a Wallflower, inasmuch as the film is not only written and directed by the same man, Abd Al Malik, but he is also the author of the novel upon which the film is based. This immediacy instantly gives the film a decided edge over your standard rise-to-fame biopic.

The specifics of this story are how Régis (Marc Zinga) rises out of his underprivliged circumstances with the support of family, education and rap. Unwilling to be a simplistic chronicle it also balances the subplots of his adoption of the Islamic faith, his relationship with his girlfriend (Sabrina Ouazani), and losses along the way where he must choose definitively the course his life will take.

Special commendation is earned by this film for the manner in which it it discusses Islam, and its perception, as well as engaging in some debate among the faithful about how to best practice their religion, a struggle with dogmatism – while also not holding back the forward momentum of the plot.

May Alla Bless France (2014, Strand Releasing)

The film is certainly carried with impressive, charasmatic and effective ease by Marc Zinga who embodies his character so well I wasn’t so sure he wasn’t the auteur. That fact, and the decision to make the film black-and-white, along with some other plot elements do make the case for this film being a modernized spin on Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.

It doesn’t reach that height because the film is more consistent, taut, and engaging; in this film its montages accompanied by the freestyle and polished versions of rap songs, performed excellently by Zinga. One song (“Tin Soldier”) is quite and earworm, and all of them have serious content to them. This frequency of music toward the end of the film means it finishes quite strong after being inconstent in its first two-thirds.

When this film was finished I was left with a smile on my face and quite moved by how it closes. In this story you have a protagonist who comes to the early realizaion that generally speaking he, like other African emigrés, are not wanted in France, yet they still love their country. Most importantly Malik doesn’t allow his sense of ostracism to define him but rather it forms the core of his motivation to succeed. The uplifting message of hope, change and perseverance is truly universal and this is a film many should see.

7/10

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Mini-Review: Detention

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Detention

To accentuate the positive first, I cannot, nor can anyone in all likelihood, accuse Detention of being unoriginal or predictable. One of its few perks is that it does not ever make it obvious where it’s going next, and in its own insane way does manage to link everything together in the end. However, the film seems to think it’s a lot more clever and funny than I find it to be. It’s part (sub)genre-hopping horror/sci-fi and mostly comedy but the comedy portion is very forced, nearly all of it. Few and far between are the jokes that work for me and rarely did jokes strike me as genuine reflections of character. Instead the characters always seem to be in a state of limbo between being a stand-in for a horror archetype and a human vessel for a punchline.

I can see how the film has produced divisive reactions, and I always prefer a film that strives for divisiveness. When all is said and done, attempting to please everyone creates tepid cinema. Truly universal stories, at their core, come from a very personal place – so, I can easily see how this might be someone else’s cup of tea, but it’s not mine.

2/10