May 25, 2012
May 25, 2012
Ismael Ferroukhi’s Free Men tells the remarkable true-life tale of how Moroccan immigrants became caught up with the resistance and helping Jews in Nazi-occupied France.
Evidently there are good tales yet untold from World War II.
Moroccan-French film-maker Ismaël Ferroukhi has hit on a little-known sequence of true events on which to base his complex, gripping wartime thriller of intrigue, resistance and heroism.
A Prophet star Tahar Rahim provides a fictional focus as Younes, one of many north Africans who emigrated to France in the 1930s to labour and be discriminated against, only to find themselves in even more desperate straits under the German occupation.
Younes is a roguish wheeler-dealer who hustles a living exploiting his own Algerian community but, when arrested, he’s pressed into spying for Parisian police who are collaborating with the Gestapo.
This sets the stage for discoveries at the Grand Mosque of Paris, where wily rector Ben Ghabrit (Michael Lonsdale) and his staff hide resisters and Jews and assist escapes to north Africa. Touched by Ben Ghabrit’s life wisdom and befriended by charismatic Algerian singer Salim Halali (Mahmud Shalaby as the real-life entertainer), Younes finds himself on a transformative journey from an invisible immigrant to a politicized freedom fighter.
The exceptional heart-warming factor – Muslims rescuing Jews – is irresistibly moving, while Ferroukhi weaves in the cloak-and-dagger treachery, hot pursuits and nerve-wracking escapes essential to the genre with the moral and political issues.