Young Ahmed | GFC Review
Every Monday, 12 young film lovers head to our cinema under the stars at Lotterywest Films to take in the best international cinema has to offer.
As aspiring cinephiles, we wanted to know what they thought of the flicks.
Read Damon Brown's review of Young Ahmed.
Directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have taken their signature, social-realistic filmmaking style to their new film Young Ahmed
which tackles the controversial subject of Islamic extremism. However, while more commercial films could have used the same subject for mere shock value and provocation, Young Ahmed tackles this subject matter from a more humanistic and empathic perspective. While Young Ahmed is definitely not an easy watch, the films pro-humanistic viewpoint is a refreshing and important perspective in a world so filled with hate.
Young Ahmed is an uncomfortable film from the very beginning when we’re introduced to our young, quiet lead character Ahmed who has embraced an extremist interpretation of the Quran. While also being influenced by his Imam, Ahmed then plans a horrifying attack against his female teacher in the name of his religion.
Based on that succinct plot description, it is clear that Young Ahmed is not an easy film to sit through. The film is constantly tense as you wonder whether Ahmed will act upon his violent beliefs, leading to many sequences where your stomach will be churning as you anticipate what will happen next. This tension is pulled off effectively thanks to the films realistic and patient filmmaking style where many moments hold and simmer building anticipation to an almost unbearable degree. Credit must also be given to first-time actor Idir Ben Addi’s subtle but effective performance as Ahmed. Addi was able to effectively pull off a character who was both unsettling but still had a degree of vulnerability about him that you couldn’t help but feel sorry for. Ahmed is a cold and ambiguous character which leads the viewer wondering what exactly Ahmed may be thinking, but at the same time you question whether you truly want to know.
However, what ultimately makes Young Ahmed such a special film is its ability to be so intimate while tackling such a controversial subject matter. The film forgoes a booming soundtrack, or any fancy camera tricks and instead really focuses on the people in this situation. Close-ups are predominately used in Young Ahmed to capture the emotions of these characters and we observe the actions of these characters from the most mundane to the most extreme. By capturing a more objective view of the situation, it is a sobering reminder that regardless of how evil some of these acts may be; it is still people who are behind them. Similar to the Dardenne’s other films, these characters are looked upon without judgement by the filmmakers. Instead, the film offers the hope of redemption for Ahmed. Where no matter how evil the beliefs that Ahmed holds may be, you still hold onto that thin thread of hope that he can be pulled back into good.
Young Ahmed is a not a very long movie, clocking in perfectly at 90 minutes, however the short runtime does not make the film any less effective. In a day-of-age where this subject matter has been reduced to mere provocative news headlines in attempt to create outrage, Young Ahmed gives us a more sobering perspective on the issue. Highlighting the themes of hope instead of hate, Young Ahmed is another example of the Dardenne brothers finding humanity in a place where many thought there was none.