Again we have two films here that are very similar in theme – one celebrates fashion, and one celebrates beauty pageantry. Plus, both are set more turmoiled times – ‘Papicha’ during the mid 90s when the country had civil unrest, and ‘Misbehaviour’ is set amidst the Women’s Liberation rallies of London in 1970. Both are directed by females and I very much liked both movies.
Mounia’s Meddour’s ‘Papicha’ is the more unnerving movie of the lot, and from what I read is fairly autobiographical. The film is about Nedjima (played by Lyna Khoudri) who get caught in the crossfires of the civil wars via her passion for designing clothes. As Muslim insurgents come in her neighborhood, she sees an abundance of posters saying women should be wearing abayas and hijabs. As a counter to that, she has an idea to create clothes using the haik, the traditional garment worn by Algerians. This is her big act of defiance, and one that has catastrophic results for everyone. The visuals here are very powerful, and I have to admit that I was not well versed in this part of history before watching the film. There were some parts that were definitely difficult to watch, but all in all, a very worthwhile film. This was screened at Cannes last year, and I am just catching up to it now.
‘Misbehaviour’ is about a different kind of rebellion – women’s liberation – and the film is set during a more specific event, the 1970 Miss World Pageant in London. Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, the film is about the five women who was arrested for disrupting the pageant, viewing the proceeding as a ‘cattle ca”. This stars a bunch of good actresses, like Kiera Knightley and Jessie Buckley playing the feminist activist. But half the film is about the inner workings of the pageant, and I thought that was the more interesting part – the activists are written like cardboard characters. 1970 was also the year that the Miss World Organization crowned its first black recipient, and it was curiously also the year that South Africa had two delegates – one black and one white. The pageant was taking more progressive steps (whether intentionally or not) and that was sidetracked by all the protests. I found the film fairly engaging as well, and I was especially taken by Greg Kinnear’s performance playing Bob Hope. Put this one under your to-watch pile!