Saturday, June 02, 2012

Free Men (Film Review)

Free Men looks at a rarely explored aspect of World War 2, that of the involvement of the Muslim community in the French resistance. 

Younus is a naive, apolitical, non-religious Muslim Algerian immigrant in Paris at the beginning of the Second World War. When he is found out as a black marketeer, the collaborationist police force him to spy on the Paris Mosque. However the more he comes into contact with the religious Moslem community, the more he is drawn into their work in the French resistance (which included hiding Jews in the cellars and giving them false papers). He makes friends with Salim a brilliant Algerian singer, who as a Jew is being protected by the Mosque which has given him false papers.

Much of the film centres round historic characters (Salim the singer and Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit the head of the mosque, who was later awarded for his role in the French resistance) giving insights into an often overlooked aspect of a period of European history that can otherwise feel as though it has been over-documented.

I found this film fascinating but lacking in tension and drama. Younus is far too taciturn to make for a good central character, particularly as so much of the film revolved around conversation. As this character is entirely fictional there seems little justification for his lack of words, which greatly impeded any sense of character development.

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

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