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Sisterhood (HLM Pussy)

Building upon the principles of #MeToo, Nora El Hourch demonstrates that female emancipation often comes from a place of privilege - French-Moroccan drama premieres in the 32nd edition of Raindance

Friendship lasts forever. At least this is the given reality for teenagers Amina (Leah Aubert), Djeneba (Médina Diarra) and Zineb (Salma Takaline). They have been best friends since their early childhood, their differences in social and ethnic background not having played a role so far. But when Zineb gets harassed by Zak (Oscar Al Hafiane), her brother’s best friend, a wedge is driven between them. Standing up against what is wrong and and calling out male supremacy isn’t as straightforward as it may sound, in an intersectional space. Zineb, who comes from a traditional Arab household and Djeneba, a black girl raised by her uncle, do not enjoy the same freedoms as Amina, who lives with her Moroccan father and white mother in a rich neighbourhood..

The idea of helping Zineb may at first seem noble. After she is forcefully kissed and claimed property by the slightly unstable Zak, Amina comes up with the idea of filming their next encounter for blackmailing purposes. Her lawyer mother (Bérénice Bejo), who often represents sexual assault victims, often complains: “we can’t put cameras everywhere”. Amina’s friends reluctantly tag along. The footage they capture is nothing like anticipated. Putting toxic masculinity at full display, he boasts about his plans to have intercourse with Zineb, and how he will get his criminal brother Karim behind bars.

While Zineb and Djeneba want to leave it at that, a chance encounter with feminist activist Anne (Amélia Lacquemant) leads Amina to post the video online under the name HLM Pussy. Voices and identity are obscured, and the Karim part of the video is edited out. While nobody outside the three friends and Zak has a clue as to who is shown in the footage, the fast-growing number of online views causes causes Zak to pressurise them to take the video down.

While Amina stands her ground, and her parents put her in an elite high school in order to keep her safe from attacks, Zineb and Djeneba are stuck in their poor neighbourhood. Victim to Zak’s hurtful smearing on the walls calling them sluts, the constant threats via messenger, and his glaring from corners of the street, they ask Amina to take it down, but to no avail. She makes #MeToo statement because she is able to keep a safe distance. Zineb does not enjoy the same privilege. She doesn’t even confide in her own brother.

French-Moroccan director Nora El Hourch carefully observes the clash of cultures and idea, without passing judgement on any of the characters. She does not seek to divide her characters, but instead to point out their differences. Each one has to find their voice. This may entail becoming a fiery activist, or simply saying “no”.

Peppered with WhatsApp messages, Insta posts and social media slang, Sisterhood gazes upon familiar obstacles that Generation Z women have to overcome. The inherited idealism and the fear of confronting challenges. Zineb wishes that everything would just go back to the way it was, she cries out loud. But these girls are becoming women, and there’s no turning back. They are part of a world that can be cruel to people of their gender.

Sisterhood premieres in the 32nd edition of Raindance, which takes place between April 19th and 24th.


By Susanne Gottlieb - 11-06-2024

Susanne Gottlieb is a cultural and film journalist based in Vienna who has been published in the daily newspapers Der Standard, Kleine Zeitung, Wiener Zeitung, NZZ am Sonntag, in the magazines TV Medi...

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