Jawad Rhalib’s Rebellious Girl (Insoumise ) is an investigation of the spirit of rebellion, and how difficult it can be to quell. Rhalib tells this story amid the backdrop of migrant workers, many of them immigrants, who work on a Belgian orchard. Their cheap contracts are seen as a godsend for the farmer Andre (Benoit Vandorslaer), who is struggling to stay above water due to increased imports and other financial setbacks.
Our proxy in this story is a young Moroccan woman named Laila (Sofiia Manousha). We are introduced to her back in her home country, where she attends political rallies – much to the chagrin of her mother and father, who struggled under the previous regime and want something different for her. In an effort to make some money to send back to her family, Laila signs a contract to work on Andre’s farm.
The contract promises overtime pay, but Andre can’t afford to pay it. Slowly, other transgressions pile up and Laila sows new seeds of rebellion among the other migrant workers, some of whom have worked at the farm for several years. With the help of a local human rights activist, Laila and others stage a strike, while Andre and his farmer friends try to figure out the best way to maintain their flimsy hold on their old lifestyle.
Rebellious Girl is well-acted in parts, but there are a few bizarre narrative choices that detract from the film. A budding romance comes out of left field, and the story loses focus a couple of times. Regardless, this film touches on many relevant and timely themes, especially given the current refugee crisis in the EU. Its defense of human rights and dignity is certainly welcome; I simply wish it would have remained more focused on serving the thematic material.
Monday, October 31, 8:00 PM, Spadina Theatre, Alliance française de Toronto
Tickets can be purchased at the Cinéfranco website.