Morocco might be home to her parents, but the “French Girl” of writer-director Souad El-Bouhati’s debut feature stubbornly resists embracing that concept even a decade after the whole family decamps from her titular birthplace. Her humorless focus on getting back to Gaul compels admiration even if her bratty demeanor does not. This keenly observed tale could attract some specialized distrib interest while flagging El-Bouhati as a talent to watch.

Quite happy where she is, pre-adolescent Sophia is dragged kicking and screaming to the car when her folks rather mysteriously and abruptly head back to their native Morocco late one night. Ten years later, everyone’s adjusted, save Sophia (Hafsia Herzi, “The Secret of the Grain”). True, she’s got an adoring boyfriend, excels in school and enjoys annoying her strict mom (Farida Khelfa) by harvesting olives alongside her dad (Maher Kamoun). But she’s still hell-bent on returning to France after passing exams. When it seems that parental promise won’t be kept, she has a full-on meltdown. Quiet resolution hits just the right note. Helmer has a good eye and knack for telling detail; tech/design contribs are assured.

French Girl


  • Production: A Wide presentation of a Jem production, in association with Irene Prods., France 2 Cinema. Produced by Jacques Kirsner, Jean-David Lefebvre. Directed, written by Souad El-Bouhati.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Florian Bouchet, Olivier Chambon; editor, Josiane Zardoya; music, Patrice Gomis; production designer, Jimmy Vansteenkiste. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival (New Directors -- competing), May 5, 2009. Original title: Francaise. French, Arabic dialogue. Running time: 80 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Hafsia Herzi, Farida Khelfa, Maher Kamoun, Aymen Saidi, Amal Ayouche, Sihame Sani, Ikrame Akaarour, Lea Fontana.
  • Music By: