9 Days in Raqqa: A Powerfully Feminist Documentary [critique]

The portrait of the new Kurdish mayor of Raqqa in Syria. And a film in its image: sober and committed

After two films focusing on youth (Children suitcases and The nuggets), documentary filmmaker Xavier de Lauzanne is embarking on a trilogy devoted to the reconstruction in Syria and Iraq of the territories regained from Daesh. The first episode follows in the footsteps of a writer, Marine de Tilly, flying in 2019 to Raqqa, the former Syrian capital of the Islamic State, to meet the one who will be the subject of his new book: Leila Mustapha, young thirty Kurdish who shares the post of mayor of the city with an Arab man.

De Lauzanne’s camera accompanies this 9-day journey without giving rise to a stunning cinematographic gesture but by succeeding in the essential: adapting the form of his story to him. Quiet, educational, where commitment is never brandished as a banner and yet present at all times. Raqqa was 80% destroyed and after the departure of the American troops, the fear of the attack and of dying on every street corner is present in the words as in the silences of this unveiled Muslim, as go-getter as careful, on board in an impossible job: reintroducing life in a place where death has reigned supreme for years. Her exchanges with Marine de Tilly, the testimony of her family, as proud as they are concerned for her, draw with Ibrahim Maalouf’s poignant soundtrack an incredibly enveloping film despite a terribly chaotic situation. “If we’re fighting alongside men, why don’t we fight in front of them? This is Leila Mustapha’s mantra, the perfect symbol of this powerfully feminist documentary.

By Xavier de Lauzanne. Duration 1h30. Release September 8, 2021

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