Lyna Khoudri, Shirine Boutella, Amira Hilda Douaouda
Algerian writer-director Mounia Meddour’s fiction feature debut, Papicha screened to acclaim in the Un Certain Regard strand at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Set in Algiers in the 1990s during the Algerian Civil War, it explores a sombre period of growing conservatism and its oppressive effects on the lives of young women.
18-year-old Algiers student Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) is passionate about fashion design. Spirited and independent, she refuses to let the war keep her from experiencing a normal life and going out at night with her friend Wassila (Shirine Boutella). When new bans are imposed by the Islamic radicals fighting the government, she rejects them, instead putting on a fashion show. But in a city rife with violence and fear, Nedjima is making a dangerously public bid for freedom.
Bursting with energy and verve, Papicha features ebullient performances and inventive camerawork depicting its female protagonists, their bodies and clothes, as they move variously between joyful creativity and enforced inflexibility, defiantly accessing all the freedoms they possibly can.