The Amina Profile


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

During the Arab revolution, a love story between two women — a Canadian and a Syrian American — turns into an international sociopolitical thriller spotlighting media excesses and the thin line between truth and falsehood on the internet.
"Director Sophie Deraspe, probably best-known for 2009 drama Vital Signs, brings a strong sense of the cinematic to what, on paper, looks like a poor candidate for it." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Director Sophie Deraspe, probably best-known for 2009 drama Vital Signs, brings a strong sense of the cinematic to what, on paper, looks like a poor candidate for it - an internet lesbian love affair and the story of a blog that develops into an mystery and a cautionary tale about online commitments.

The sort of documentary that is better experienced than talked about, detailing the journey here would mute much of its impact, so I will confine myself to general terms, although it's pretty clear from the use of the world 'profile' in the title of the film that the story which begins with romance between Syrian Amina Arraf, who grew up in the US, and Montreal-based Sandra Bagaria is not all that it may first appear.

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Deraspe uses impressionistic, dreamy imagery of the half glimpsed face and body of Amina to illustrate the growing bond that developed between the Syrian-American and Sandra, even though they had never met, nor even spoken. When Amina started an anti-regime blog with the inflammatory title A Gay Girl In Damascus, Sandra - along with many others from the LGBT and Syrian activist community - were supportive and it wasn't long before her bravery in the face of authority was noticed by the world's media. Then Amina was kidnapped and the ensuing outcry led to the collapse of what everyone thought they knew.

Deraspe keeps the Syrian conflict close to hand, stitching in protest footage and graphic imagery of some of the brutal beatings dished out by the Assad regime in order to outline why Amina's plight became part of a media firestorm but also to highlight the way in which these sorts of images can end up playing second fiddle to 'gossip' even though people are losing their lives. Sam Shalabi's frequently discordant score adds to the sense of dislocation and tension. Deraspe never forgets the bigger picture but she is also interested in the very human story of Sandra and enables her to probe into the situation she found herself in and confront the person who put her there. A documentary best served by approaching it with as little knowledge as possible, its impact may be lessened if you know the story going in but Deraspe nevertheless asks strong and urgent questions about the less savoury side of news consumption in a global internet age.

The Amina Profile will be available via VoD from July 24, 2015 at the SundanceNow Doc Club.

Reviewed on: 06 Feb 2015
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The story of a love affair that turned into a mystery after a Syrian blogger was kidnapped.

Director: Sophie Deraspe

Year: 2015

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Canada

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