Eye For Film >> Movies >> Bismillah (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Samira (Linda Mresy) is ten. At an age when most kids would be busy with school and friends, sports and hobbies, she has a lot more to cope with, having been left in sole charge of her older brother Jamil (Belhassen Bouhali) who is burning up with a fever. This might be daunting enough on its own, but as his condition worsens she's not sure where to turn - not due to s simple lack of knowledge but because her father has told her never to let anyone know that the family is living there. Jamil himself is afraid to go to the hospital in case it results in them all being sent back to Tunisia. Brave, determined, his sister tries to find a solution
The title, not directly translated here, is the Arabic for 'in the name of God' and the first word in the Qur'an. Samira sings it partly in prayer, beseeching help, and partly to reinforce her own courage. it acts as a point of connection between the siblings and gives her a point of reference in a culture that is not her own. Yet though she knows very little of Italy, where the family has found shelter and sympathy from a handful of locals, she understands people. We get the impression that she has seen the worst of them; now she must try to rebuild her faith in them, to imagine the existence of mercy, not just for her brother's sake but also as part of the process of moving from being just a survivor to being part of the world again.
Winner of an Amnesty International Award, this taut little film hinges on Mresy's remarkable performance, speaking for millions of lost and frightened people even when she's not speaking at all. It also reminds viewers that people who have survived desperate situations and found shelter in the West often remain unsafe because they don't have access to basic services that the rest of us take for granted.
Director Alessandro Grande keep the camera close in small, dark rooms with covered windows, narrow stairwells, dark streets. This emphasises the smallness of Samira's world. The darkness and squalor illustrate the realities of having to hide all the time. We meet Samira in a moment of crisis but the film invites us to wonder what she deals with day to day; it's a window into a secret world, into the lives of children who live all around us but out of sight and all too easily out of mind.Reviewed on: 26 Dec 2018