Claire Denis Boards Dina Amer’s ‘You Resemble Me’ as Radicalization Drama Gets French Release (EXCLUSIVE)

Distributor La Vingt-Cinquième Heure has acquired the French rights to Egyptian-American director Dina Amer’s politically sensitive drama “You Resemble Me.” The film tells the story of Hasna Aït Boulahcen, who in 2015 was wrongly believed to be Europe’s first female suicide bomber.

The film is a deeply researched character study of the young Muslim woman, who became linked to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris even though she didn’t participate in them. Aït 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.

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In a strong show of support, revered French auteur Claire Denis (“High Life”) is boarding “You Resemble Me” as an executive producer. Denis will also participate in onstage conversations with Amer during the film’s French theatrical run this fall.

“You Resemble Me,” which world premiered positively at the 2021 Venice Film Festival and went on to win a slew of awards on the festival circuit, is also executive produced by Spike Lee, Spike Jonze, Riz Ahmed and Alma Har’el.

The “You Resemble Me” release in France will provide a basis for “talkback sessions” that aim “to raise awareness of the issue of prevention of radicalization,” a statement said. Last year, a verdict was reached in the highly emotional, nearly 10-month so-called “trial of the century” regarding the 2015 Paris terror attacks for which Salah Abdeslam — the only person directly involved in their planning who is still alive — received the heaviest sentence under French law.

Based on extensive research done by Amer, who is a prize-winning journalist, the potent drama reconstructs the roots of Islamic radicalization in France by depicting the chaotic childhood of Aït Boulahcen. She grew up in an underprivileged suburb of Paris where she lived with her younger sister, with whom she had a strong bond, as well as her dysfunctional mother, originally from Morocco. After being picked up by the police for stealing food from a market stall, she and her sister were separated and placed in separate foster homes, even though they were desperate to stay together.

Growing up feeling lonely, alienated and eager to be loved and belong somewhere, Aït Boulahcen was eventually lured by her cousin into joining a terror cell after watching the sensationalized media reports of the mass shooting at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

She died three days after the Bataclan concert hall attacks in a blast in the Parisian suburbs that occurred when a different suspect detonated his explosives-filled vest.

“We are very happy and honored to present this incredibly powerful film by Dina Amer,” said Pierre-Emmanuel Le Goff, CEO of La Vingt-Cinquième Heure, in a statement. “As a French distributor, we know how much the 2015 attacks marked our country and the responsibility of addressing this subject and discussing it with the public.”

Commented Amer: “At this moment in time where the whole world is paying attention to what is happening in the streets in France, we feel that there is an urgency for people to come to the theaters and see our film. We want this film to be a unifier.”

She continued, “We are thrilled that the film has had a successful widespread international release in countries like the U.S. the U.K. and the Middle East, but France is the most important place for it to be received. This film is for all the young people, especially young people of color who feel isolated, marginalized and singled out by the police.”

“You Resemble Me” stars Mouna Soualem, Sabrina Ouazani, Lorenza Grimaudo, Ilonna Grimaudo, Dina Amer, Grégoire Colin and Zinedine Soualem. It is produced by Amer, Elizabeth Woodward at WILLA and Karim Amer.

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