Fatima is the story of a Moroccan woman living in France. She’s raising her two daughters on her own. Fatima (Soria Zeroual, in her first ever role) speaks and writes only Arabic. Her French isn’t very good, even after years of living there.
Fatima works as a cleaning woman to support her daughters. The eldest, Nesrine (Zita Hanrot), hopes to get into medical school. The 15-year old Souad (Kenza Noah Aïche) considers herself French and scorns her mother for being illiterate because she doesn’t speak French.
Fatima faced many obstacles. The racism built into French society held her back. The other Arabic speaking immigrants looked down on her. Her employer took advantage of her. Her rebellious 15-year old child drove her crazy wearing revealing clothing and staying out late. She falls down a flight of stairs at work and goes on disability, which she has to struggle to get because the doctors think she’s faking.
When the girls’ father appears on the scene it’s to do something not helpful, like provide an expensive pair of Nikes for Souad.
Philippe Faucon directed this plainly told story about mother/daughter relationships with a delicate touch.
The beauty of the story is subtle and begins when Fatima turns to writing a journal and poems in Arabic. At one point she reads her daughter a beautiful poem. Soria Zeroual’s delivery of the poem was so beautifully done – I could tell without knowing any Arabic it was lovely.
According to this review,
Fatima’s poetry and reflections from her diary, quoted throughout the film, come from a collection of writing by Fatima Elayoubi, a North African immigrant woman with a similar life to her on-screen counterpart
There was a tiny, private moment of pride and optimism when Fatima went alone late at night to read the posted scores for the medical school entrance exam. When she found Nesrine’s name there, her expression was worth the time spent on the entire film.
Fatima wasn’t a perfect film. It was disjointed. Subtext hinted at things that weren’t developed. We don’t know anything about Fatima’s relationship with her ex-husband. What it did right was the Arab immigrant experience in France and the mother/daughter relationships at the center of the story.
I found Fatima on Netflix.