France/Algeria, 2019, 105 min, Dir. Mounia Meddour, Not rated but unsuitable for children, French & Arabic with English subtitles, Distrib Films
"[Leaves] no room for doubt that [director Mounia] Meddour is a cinematic talent to watch with urgent things to say on the toughened and resilient female spirit." – Tomris Laffly, RogerEbert.com
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Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri, starring in Wes Anderson’s upcoming The French Dispatch) is a university student during the Algerian Civil War whose passion is fashion design. Defying religious conservatism, she custom-makes dresses for her peers that are examples of individual expression. Attacks on civilians are on the rise from fundamentalist Islamist sects, and a shocking incident drives Nedjma to stage a unique protest: a fashion show centered around repurposing the haik, a traditional veil, into secular garments. Anchored by a remarkable naturalism and camaraderie among its lead actresses (especially from Khoudri and Shirine Boutella), Papicha—a highlight of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section—tells an unflinching story of resistance and resilience, and marks an inspired, sometimes harrowing debut for Mounia Meddour. The film earned Meddour the AMPAS Gold Fellowship Award for Women and also won César Awards for Best First Film and Best Female Newcomer.
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