Let me open up this reflection using the exact words that Fatima, the main character, uses in the movie: “My soul bends over”… and confess that in my case my soul does actually bend over those who come from a world with scarce opportunities and devote their lives to creating those opportunities for others, even if often their lives become like a race and sometimes they almost loose themselves in the process.
In Philippe Faucon’s movie “Fatima,” the winner of this year’s César (the French Oscar for best film), a divorced Algerian woman brings up her two daughters in Lyon. She works tirelessly as a cleaning woman to pay for their education. The oldest daughter, Nesrin, is struggling through her first year of medical school, and the 15 year old Souad is a rebel who treats her mother in such a humiliating way that Fatima begins to question her self-sacrifice.
This subtle, perfect film captures the conflicts and tensions of many anonymous women -and men- who act as everyday heroes and sacrifice their own lives to create an opportunity for their families and for their loved ones. It is also an homage to immigrants all over the world who have to face incredibly difficult circumstances and without whom the world as we know it will not function.
Fatima made me reflect about the sometimes myopic view of those -myself included- born lucky enough to have access to some key “benefits”, like a universal system of public education, who are at the basis of life the way we know it. The movie shows most of the social and economic problems that are coloring our “reality” in Europe these days, including racism, social exclusion or the difficulties of second-generation immigrants to become “first class citizens”. It even hints at the raise of terrorism and fundamentalism partially due to the difficulties that our societies have at providing dignity and a strong identity to young people depending on their origins, ethnicity or background.
Last but not least, the movie shows how reflection and words can be a key part of our life and become our way to make sense out of it as well as to face our difficulties from a space of respect and love for ourselves. Some of the most beautiful scenes of the movie show Fatima writing in her old notebook before she goes to bed. The words she writes are often amazingly powerful and beautiful, bringing a different quality to her very difficult reality. These words save her.
Let us pay tribute to those who like Fatima fight everyday to change the world one piece at a time.