Review by James Lindorf
Bismillah is Alessandro Grande’s award-winning Italian film that tackles some of the significant issues facing undocumented immigrants. Young Samira has been left to care for her ailing brother, Jamil, without access to traditional medicine. As Jamil’s condition worsens, Samira is faced with the possibility of a life-altering decision. The film stars Francesco Colella (Trust) and introduces Basma Bouhali, Belhassen Bouhali, and Linda Mresy as Samira.
Mresy is a delight and did a terrific job, particularly for someone in their first performance. The way she clings to Bismillah, a sung prayer, to comfort her brother and herself is equally endearing and heartbreaking. The rest of the cast is fine, but their roles are minimal when compared with Mresy’s.
Grande did an excellent job as a director to pull this performance from an unknown actress and to conjure so much anxiety about a stomach ache. Grande and the film’s cinematographer, Francesco di Pierro, made the decision to shoot at night with lots of blue tones, as a way to make the world feel darker, colder and more alone than someone not in Samira’s situation could imagine.
Grande tackled the issue of healthcare and the limited access illegal families can face. While the situation is bleak, the film is about love, hope and the connection within a community that helps each other the best they can. It is easy to see why the film recently won the Amnesty International Award for Best Short Film at Giffoni Film Festival. I would challenge anyone to watch this film and not think of Samira, her humanity, and how no one should be in her predicament when they read or see discussions about undocumented immigrants.