Papicha review – female friendship and resistance in 90s Algeria
Fashion is a form of protest in this shimmering semi-autobiographical tale following a design student and friends during the country’s civil war..
For Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri, magnetic), fashion is political. A design student in 1990s Algiers, she clings to what she considers to be her rights – the choice to dress as she wishes, to leave her hair uncovered, to dance and flirt in underground clubs – even as sections of Algerian society insist that young women like her should be neither seen nor heard. The building of a wall around her all-female university dormitory takes on a symbolic resonance: those who choose not to wear the traditional veil or “haik” will be covered up, one way or another. But when the slow-burning fuse of the Algerian civil war ignites, and blood is spilled, Nedjma is inspired to use the haik as the basis for a fashion show. Like the denim jacket in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Nedjma’s dresses are a form of protest.
Mounia Meddour’s feature debut is loosely based on her own experiences. Shot in the shimmering, saturated colour palette of a teenager’s eyeshadow cache, the film uses a jostling, intimate camera that places us in Nedjma’s feisty inner circle. While the final act frays a little, the sparking tensions of female friendship are vivid and persuasive.