You Resemble Me
Dina Amer’s timely and powerful debut challenges the narratives surrounding one young woman’s involvement in the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.
In November 2015, Islamist extremists carried out a series of attacks at various locations in Paris. Hasna Aït Boulahcen was killed in a blast when a home-made incendiary device detonated in a Saint Denis apartment. The media labelled her ‘Europe’s first female suicide bomber’. But the headlines were mistaken. Amer’s film retraces Hasna’s story, showing how, at the age of nine, she was separated from her family, which has a disastrous impact on her life. Amer then jumps forward in time, to when Hasna was in her 20s and drawn to radical extremism. It also makes clear that she was not the person presented to the world.
Amer employs deep fake technology to show how Hansa changed her ‘face’ depending on the company or situation we find ourselves in. Hand-held camerawork also adds an edginess to the way the story unfolds. But what makes Amer’s film a significant addition to cinema’s representation of the way the world’s media records such stories, is its emphasis on complexity. Few lives are ever as simple as they appear, or stories as straightforward. Hasna was not a poster girl for extremism, but a confused individual, whom society had let down and, ultimately, tried to escape the viciousness of others.