Eye For Film >> Movies >> Battalion To My Beat (2016) Film Review
Battalion To My Beat
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Around the world, some 21 million people live in refugee camps. Some 90,000 of them live near the Algerian city of Tindouf. These are Sahrawi people, originally from lands claimed by Morocco. Many of the men still go out to fight, hoping one day to regain control of their homeland. The women stay at home, study, run the camp's facilities and raise the next generation.
This is the setting for the fictional tale of Mariam (Mariam Omar Ahmed), a teenager who likes playing football, hates wearing dresses and is full of romantic dreams about Sahrawi emancipation. She longs to become a soldier like her older brother. He tells her to stay at home. But Mariam isn't easily discouraged.
It's confusing growing up surrounded by powerful messages which one then learns were intended only for other people. A military commander is sympathetic to Mariam's situation. He doesn't dismiss her out of hand because of her sex. The greater difficulty he faces is that every reason he tells her she should stay away from war could equally well be given to young men, and he clearly knows it. So he seeks a solution that will allow her to contribute without, one way or another, making him feel like a monster.
Young Ahmed is utterly convincing in the central role, both in the fierceness of her ambition and in her still childlike way of engaging with the world. In the artificial environment of the camp, a breach of traditional gender roles which would once have been met with hostility is instead met with gentle curiosity and acceptance of difference. The proximity of war and the ongoing social crisis stemming from displacement mean that one girl's unusual behaviour is not a major concern. Battalion To My Beat takes a broader look at how people adapt to an unpredictable world.Reviewed on: 23 Jul 2017