With a slow-burning intensity, Mehdi Fikri’s gripping feature debut follows a grieving family in their quest for justice after the police slaying of a young man in the suburbs of Strasbourg, France.
After the fire
Flames lick at flesh, flanking and stoking street agitations in a working-class, immigrant French suburb of Strasbourg. Karim, a 25-year-old man, has been murdered at the hands of the police. Devastated by the news, his estranged sister Malika (Camélia Jordana in a simmering performance) reunites with her family, compelled to seek justice for her slain brother. Strategizing with mentorly community organizer Slim (Samir Guesmi) and suave private lawyer Mr. Harchi (Makita Samba), Malika soon begins to face a courtroom battle with overwhelming media exposure, while contending with the growing chaos of her hectic everyday — missed daycare meetings, a failing business, and a strained marriage. But she and her siblings Driss (passionately played by rapper Sofiane Zermani, a.k.a. Fianso) and Nour (Sonia Faidi) are anchored by their renewed blood ties. Together they harness the fire of public outrage against a racist criminal justice system.
Following his tensely paced monochromatic short Descente (4AM), Fikri returns to the municipally neglected, hyper-policed banlieues in the peripheries of Strasbourg in this incandescent, social-realist, woman-led drama. After the fire solidifies Fikri’s prowess in telegraphing not only states of crisis, but also their disquieting aftermath. It is at once a sleek procedural and an absorbing study of a family grappling with the smoky repercussions of rage and attempting to find recourse.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: violence, mature themes