Dina Amer is a former Vice News journalist making a fierce feature debut with this vehement, focused and often disturbing movie, plausibly and sympathetically creating a backstory for a real-life case and finally aligning the fictionalised mise en scène, news footage and interviews with expert assurance and care.
You Resemble Me is an imagined response to the case of Hasna Aït Boulahcen, a young French woman of Moroccan descent who had been radicalised by Islamic State and was killed in 2015 during the raid on a Paris apartment building after the terrorist attacks on various targets, including the Bataclan theatre. The siege culminated in a shootout and an explosion; afterwards excitable media reporters claimed Aït Boulahcen was Europe’s “first female suicide bomber”, with much prurient commentary about her former troubled life as a “party girl”. In fact, forensic evidence showed the bomber was an unidentifiable man.
Lorenza Grimaudo plays the young Hasna, inseparably close to her younger sister Mariam (played by Lorenza’s real-life sister Ilonna Grimaudo); she is fostered after incessant truanting and running away with Mariam, but social services split them up into different families, causing a terrible psychic wound that maybe contributed to her final disaster. As an adult, played by Mouna Soualem (daughter of Hiam Abbass), she is angry, depressed, abused and drawn into drug addiction, and finally electrified by her cousin’s charismatic online presence as a jihadi.
Amer creates a very disquieting effect with which her face deepfake-morphs into a different face: the image of her alternative sense of self or selves, perhaps stemming from the spiritual amputation of her sister’s presence. With this touch, You Resemble Me has the bite-strength of a horror film. A strong, muscular, heartfelt film.
• You Resemble Me is released on 3 February in UK cinemas.