TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘After the fire’

Posted in TIFF 2023 by - September 17, 2023
TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘After the fire’

An Arab-French family experiences turbulence in Mehdi Fikri’s After the fire. In the film, the family’s younger brother, Karim, dies under the brutal hands of the Strasbourg police. There are some words in the dialogue that have a lot of double meaning. After the police’s following attacks on the family’s home, one of the siblings talks about responsibility. There’s the obvious meaning and a latent one, as the family’s power dynamics changes, and those changes determine whether or not they’ll make Karim’s death political. The elder brother and sister, Driss and Malika (Camélia Jordana and Sofiane Zermani respectively) have similar angst and goals. But Malika takes it upon herself to ally herself with community activists, the lawyers, and members of the press.

There’s a lot of connective tissue between Fikri’s film and others in the festival. Let’s just say that yes, After the fire is good and that the other one is better, but this film is also the one where that Byzantine system makes sense. It helps that it shows the little legal skirmishes before the big battles. And as interesting as those scenes are, what also stands out is the dynamics among the family members. It subtly investigates how Malika becomes the family’s public face. She doesn’t always act like the perfect victim while defending Karim, also not a perfect victim. But she has the right qualities. The screenplay works on many levels including how the family keeps their cultural integrity despite of everything.

ph. TIFF

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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