In Antigone, director and writer Sophie Deraspe re-imagines an ancient Greek heroine (Nahéma Ricci). Here, she’s a seventeen year old straight A student from Quebec via Algeria. She has a bright future until her brother Polynice (Rawad El-Zein) goes to jail.
Polynice inadvertently assaults the police officer who shot his unarmed brother Eteocles (Hakim Brahimi). That should be a mitigating circumstance, but the Quebec courts don’t not think so. Polynice’s offence is enough for the government to deport him unless Antigone drastically interferes.
As Antigone protects her brother, issues about gender and race come to the forefront. But speaking as a man, there’s a universality in her loyalty towards her brother. The film expresses that she would have acted similarly had her sister faced trouble.
Ricci also proves to be formidable actress despite being new to acting. She fleshes out each stage of her character, as an inmate, a student, and refugee. Doing so removes every assumption anyone with prejudice can make about someone like her.
The film, doing its part, shows Antigone inadvertently living in today’s contemporary society. This world has police brutality, its officers tearing immigrant families apart both physically and mentally. This opposition makes her unwavering loyalty to her brothers more appealing and more relate-able.
Depicting the common struggle between individuals and society they live in need some fresh eyes. Deraspe strongly steps up in that regard, mixing up different cinematic formats. Here, she shows that classic stories still have their appeal in our complex world.