Sisterhood – Raindance Film Festival 2024

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers: Nora El Hourch, Éléonore Gurrey and Sara Wikler

Director: Nora El Hourch

Believing and supporting women becomes complicated for three best friends when a viral video places them on different sides of a campaign. Nora El Hourch’s Sisterhood screening at the Raindance Film Festival is a gripping story about the lack of control young women have over their bodies and their decision-making. One of the strongest films in this year’s Festival, Sisterhood is often bleak but ultimately hopeful about the enduring support on offer from your best friends.

Zineb, Djeneba and Amina share every experience, from attending school to filling their free time and planning their future as friends, including Zineb’s idea that they will go to Paris to do internships in the months ahead. But when two of the friends consider alternative plans, including Djeneba who wants to go to the USA, a small crack only widens when Amina is assaulted by an intense friend of her brother’s. Thinking she is doing the right thing Zineb puts a video of the incident online bringing everything crashing down.

There are lots of interesting strands to El Hourch’s movie with perspectives not only on the central friendship but also relationships with parents and siblings as well as the complicated economic and social context that surrounds them. Zineb has an immigrant family background while Djeneba experiences daily racist aggressions and the pressure to uphold multiple identities often conflict with the individualism these women want to express, resulting in clashes with authority figures. And Sisterhood has a lot to contribute to the understanding of contemporary teenage experiences of cultural, religious and politically inherited expectations of being in a global social media-driven society where online identities are curated and presented.

El Hourch’s film never shies away from the undertone of violence in the French town where graffiti and threats of harm are used by men to control women’s behaviour, and as Sisterhood plays out the span of that impact only increased with slurs about the friends reaching their parents and their physical safety is threatened on several occasions when they try to speak out. What El Hourch does so well through this story is to show the dangers that women constantly face and the fragility of any power they may hold, particularly in the well-managed ambiguity of Amina’s interaction with her attacked and the complex feelings it elicits.

As the central trio, Leah Aubert as Amina is the most withdrawn, a sweet and shy young woman with considerable vulnerability who becomes overwhelmed by attempts to help her. Médina Diarra as Djeneba is the bubbliest, a YouTuber with a prized trainer collection whose outspokenness refuses to be contained by the racist threats she endures while Salma Takaline as Zineb channels her frustrations at home and the limitations being imposed on her into the campaigns she starts online. The pain it causes as their friendship crumbles and the viral post gets out of hand is nicely managed and the actors convince as close friends enduing their hardest time together.

Eventually there is greater nuance in the presentation of men in this film with further insight into Zainab’s father and Amina’s brother stepping up, but Sisterhood, like How to Have Sex and Fish Tank, is uncompromising on the experiences young women are enduring on a daily basis and why your friends are the only one to really rely on.

Sisterhood is screening at theRaindance Film Festivalwhich runs from 19 – 28 June in London

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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