Near the end of the gentle, affecting film that bears her name, Fatima (played by newcomer Soria Zeroual) reads a bit of poetry she's composed to her oldest daughter, Nesrine—in Arabic, because she's still learning French. The poem is about her life, about facing the world alone with her daughters. “This is my intifada,” she says: her act of uprising. Raising her daughters is her rebellion against oppression.
“Fatima” is a modest but engrossing movie, clocking in at a slim 78 minutes, that explores what that sort of act of rebellion might look like for a woman like Fatima: a North African immigrant in her mid-forties, divorced, living in Lyon, in a community that doesn't seem overly eager to assimilate her or women like her. As such, it combines several currents running through contemporary European cinema: the sticky matter of immigration and assimilation, the challenges faced by the working class, and the tricky matters women navigate when they're members of both of those groups. Fatima works as a cleaner tries to learn to read and write French beyond a basic level, and raises her two daughters. Nesrine (Zita Hanrot), her eldest, is a first-year medical student far more mature than her 18 years; Souad (Kenza Noah Aïche), on the other hand, is 15, surly and disdainful of her mother's job and her broken French. All of them face pressure from the immigrant community, who sees Nesrine as stuck-up and Souad as a reflection on Fatima.
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