SOUMAYA – Review by Lois Alter Mark

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Soumaya is based on actual events that occurred after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, and the fact that the film had to overcome so many obstacles in order to get made shows how crucial it is that it finally did — and that it be seen.

The title character (played by Soraya Hachoumi) has worked as a manager for a security company at Charles de Gaulle Airport for 14 years. Because France has declared a state of emergency, police are authorized to raid homes and make house arrests without warrants – or actual evidence – and Soumaya becomes a victim of that injustice.

The authority’s alarming level of persecution and violence is evident when police raid the community mosque where Souraya teaches classes on the Quran. Using commando tactics, the police break down the mosque’s unlocked door, and storm into the place with guns raised, terrifying all who are inside.

Soumaya loses her job for bogus reasons that change as she fights and disproves each one: she’s a practicing Muslim who’s accused of being a jihadist, she recently started wearing a headscarf, In fact, she’s always worn a head scarf. They say that she lent her badge to a baggage handler who’s been found praying in a restricted area and is under investigation himself. She provides evidence to the contrary. It doesn’t matter that none of the charges are true. That Soumaya is labeled a “threat to national security” simply because she’s a Muslim is reason enough for dismissal from the job that she needs to support her family.

Soumaya decides to fight back in court. Although her mother begs her to stay quiet and keep a low profile, she’s determined to show her young daughter the importance of standing up for yourself.

By making the film’s narrative personal and focusing on individuals, Soumaya‘s directors Ubaydah Abu-Usayd and Waheed Khan put a human face to the post-terror crackdown that targeted Muslims solely for their religious beliefs and practices rather than evidence of actual crimes.

Soumaya is a compelling, thought-provoking film that will stay with you long after the powerful final scene.

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Lois Alter Mark

Lois Alter Mark is an award-winning writer who reviews films on Midlife at the Oasis. A former contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade, she also reviewed films for for many years. She is a member of San Diego Film Critics Society and tweets from @loisaltermark. She writes about travel for USA Today and Forbes.