Riz Ahmed has boarded Egyptian-American director Dina Amer’s “You Resemble Me,” a bold exploration of the roots of Islamic radicalization through the story of Hasna Aït Boulahcen – who in 2015 was wrongly believed to be Europe’s first female suicide bomber – ahead of the pic’s premiere in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).
Amer’s feature debut, which world premiered positively at the Venice Film Festival, is a deeply researched character study of the fragile young Muslim woman who became linked to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris even though she didn’t participate in them. Boulahcen died during an anti-terrorism raid alongside her cousin Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was one of the ringleaders of the coordinated assaults that killed 130 people in the French capital, including 90 at the Bataclan theater.
Ahmed’s show of support for the film – which is also executive produced by Spike Lee, Spike Jonze and Alma Har’el (“Honey Boy”) – is especially significant given that the Oscar-nominated actor-producer-rapper is on the frontline when it comes to breaking barriers that cause Muslim misrepresentation on screen.
“Riz has been able to succeed in Hollywood and demand that our stories are told by us,” Amer told Variety, adding that Ahmed has also been able to demand “that we get to appear differently than just the terror legacy that has been thrown upon us.”
“The film may be about someone who was wrongly framed as Europe’s first female suicide bomber,” Ahmed said in a statement for Variety. “But this isn’t a film about terrorism. It’s a film about identity, and what it means to live on the margins of society as a woman of color,” he added.
“It’s about someone trying to navigate complex identity in a world that wants to simplify, minimize, and ultimately eliminate her – whether through poverty and racism in French society, or the patriarchy of pseudo Islamic radicalism,” he went on to note, calling “You Resemble Me” “mold-breaking, subversive” and “at the bleeding edge of the zeitgeist.”
After launching from Venice in September, “You Resemble Me,” which is being repped in North America by Rena Ronson at UTA and by The Match Factory in international markets, has segued to several other festivals, including Sao Paulo, Stockholm and Thessaloniki. Pic will have its MENA premiere at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival next week.