ANTIGONE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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For the past four years, there has been no lack of blatant political maneuvers to undermine our values and debase our nation. But from the moment Trump announced his candidacy for the highest office in the land while descending on a gold escalator in his Trump Tower, he was bound and determined to demonize, harm and punish immigrants while promising to make their existence a living hell.

Now from our neighbor Canada comes a fresh take on the woes that face desperate immigrants who flee violence and upheaval in their homelands. What gives this particular interpretation added depth? It just so happens to be based on a 2,500-year-old Greek tragedy — namely Sophocles’ Antigone. Set in Quebec, we meet an Algerian family that consists of two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, and, two brothers, wise-guy Polynice and ace soccer player Eteocle, who have fled their country with their grandmother after their parents are found slain.

Quebecois writer, director and cinematographer Sophie Draspe’s best move is in her casting of actress Nahema Ricci, a slim waifish beauty with mesmerizing blue eyes and dramatic chops in the title role. Her Antigone, who was just 3 when she lost mother and father, is all about her family ties. Now a 17-year-old high-schooler, she shares the story of family’s past and how they came to Canada.

She wins a $4,000 prize for academic achievement and has a loyal beau (Antoine DesRochers). Her sister (Nour Belhiria), a hairdresser’s assistant, is hoping to open her own salon one day while living a normal life with a husband and kids. But Antigone’s brothers are connected to a street gang. When the cops show up at one of their outdoor gatherings, matters take a horrible turn while ending in tragic shooting. Meanwhile, Polynice is sent to jail for assaulting an officer and his deportation is just a matter of time.

But Antigone decides to cut her hair and impersonate her brother when she visits him in jail. They switch clothes and he gets to walk out the door. While Sophocles didn’t have the option to make his heroine a social media star, Antigone’s declaration that “My heart tells me” — her justification for standing up for her family – goes viral. The publicity helps get her off the hook while her boyfriend’s father volunteers to be her guardian and also pay for her schooling.

However, Draspe’s clever ending suggests that little will change for other foreign outsiders seeking asylum, citizenship and a better life.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Antigone is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for November 20, 2020

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Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.