Dir. Sophie Deraspe
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Set against the turbulent backdrop of war-and-revolution in contemporary Syria we meet one hot French-Canadian babe in Montreal (Sandra Bagaria) and one hot Syrian-American babe in Damascus (Amina Arraf).
They meet online. They're young. They're in love.
Okay. That's it. Go see the movie.
Oh, that's not fair. Here's a bit more to, uh, chew on:
Yesiree-bob, they're lesbians and they're totally into each other, wholly - in mind (what's some nice sapphic eroticism without a few healthy dollops of intellectual discourse) and in, oh yeah, baby, BODY. And let me tell ya', quicker than you can say "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?", l'action de yum yum gets going and it's guaranteed to be hot and heavy.
No? Okay, check this out:
The rub, so to speak, is that they're separated by continents, culture and physical proximity, so they must create virtual worlds via text messaging and avatars to become one. Yes, it's cybersex, but no matter. This is a movie, so, via the film's director, we have mega-potential for lots of imagined, recreated hot caresses, tongue action, rug cleaning and soft, lithe, supple flesh against flesh to demonstrate for us, the unbridled passion unfurling in their respective loins - I mean, minds. Better yet, as the film progresses, they can well imagine what the real fireworks are going to be like when they finally meet.
So can we.
Yowza! Yowza! Yowza! Do I really need to keep writing?
I do? Well, okay. Don't mind if I do. Just thought you'd want to dispense with reading this review and just go see the movie (with a handy raincoat to place over your lap for any discrete digital manipulations you might wish to indulge in as the picture unspools).
So, where was I? Oh yes, so our two femmes are tres exotique and maybe, just maybe, the virtual will become a reality. There's danger, though. Sandra lives a fairly normal, comfy life in La Belle Province whilst Amina is surrounded by violence and political unrest during the Syrian uprising as its being quashed by the ruling patriarchy. Oh, and lest we forget, those of the LGBT persuasion are on the top of most Syrians' extermination lists which ups the suspense ante when brave Amina launches a blog entitled "A Gay Girl in Damascus" - a delicious blend of news, politics and ground zero reportage of the Syrian conflicts. The blog goes through the roof - journalists and news agencies from all over the world look to the "Gay Girl" for their news, until, the worst happens.
Amina tells Sandra that the secret police are on to her. It's scary stuff. She aspires to be a novelist and her blog posts and emails to her cyber-love are plenty evocative. She walks the streets of Damascus, attends rallies and protests, and at times, finds herself alone in the shadows of tiny labyrinthian walkways. All the while, she's convinced she's being followed. (The filmmaker delivers a whole lot of hazy dramatic recreations for us - a total bonus). Eventually, Amina informs Sandra that she needs to go further underground and that their communications will be sporadic and brief.
Amina completely disappears. The world is watching. Where is the Gay Girl in Damascus? Word travels through various underground and cyber channels that Amina has been kidnapped by the Syrian authorities and languishes in prison. Sandra is desperate. She launches an intense campaign to find and rescue Amina. With the help of Western activists and even American diplomatic channels (Amina is, after all, a dual American citizen), a tense, multilevelled investigation is underway. Mystery upon mystery begins to exponentially pile up and soon Sandra (and by extension, we, the audience) are ripped away like a Harlequin Romance heroine's bodice from a sex-drenched love story and plunged into a superbly complex thriller that keeps us wanting to know more.
And the more we (and Sandra know), the more we become afraid.
And guess what? We're only a third of the way into the film. There's a lot more thrills and intrigue to enjoy.
AND it's all true.
Aside from the deftly directed dramatic recreations, skillfully edited with a myriad of other characters/subjects and interviews, The Amina Profile is never less than jangling, compulsive viewing. Where it goes, you'll never know until you see it. Once you do see it, as the suspenseful pieces of the puzzle slowly, creepily and shockingly fall into place, you'll find yourself registering surprise at every turn of every corner. You'll be confronted with the deep, dark mysteries of international intrigue amidst violent revolution as well as the strange, dark corners of cyberspace.
The picture's a corker. In fact, The Amina Profile might be one of the most vital contemporary films to examine how loneliness coupled with activism yields a Knossos-like journey to a shocking reality of what all of us face in parallel worlds - those in which we question and alternately, those we do not.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** Four Stars
The Amina Profile will have its Toronto Premiere at HOT DOCS 2015. For schedule and tickets, visit the Hot Docs website HERE.