YOUNG AHMED gets 7.5/10 Deadly intent

Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Starring Idir Ben Addi, Othmane Moumen, Claire Bodson


Radicalism and rehabilitation are two forces battling it out in young Ahmed’s life. This supposed path to redemption that he has brainstormed isn’t going to come as planned. Young Ahmed’s stark docu-drama aesthetic only makes its content all the more realistic and harrowing, showing its hugely troubling title character to be all the more impenetrable. This may be storytelling done in a deliberately straight-forward and linear way, but it no doubt contains a power that grips you as an observer.

With the film coming entirely from his perspective, Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) is a teenage boy with extremist Islamic views that are being perpetuated by Imam Youssouf (Othmane Moumen). Ahmed’s warped faith results in a violent act that brings him to a juvenile detention centre, where rehabilitation begins – one that doesn’t seem to be operating so successfully for him.

There doesn’t seem to be any huge mysteries to Ahmed and his plans, as we are constantly privy to his absolute penchant for deadly retribution. The film puts up just about zero ambiguities about his violent extremism, with this young man completely rigid in his beliefs. It’s only towards the end of the film that his extremist faith is tested and we get a sense of the questions wrestling in his head, for likely the first time.

There’s a great timeliness to Young Ahmed that makes it feel like it couldn’t have come out even a few years earlier. With that cultural vitality comes an utter seriousness applied to how this material is handled. There is also the feeling that the film rounds itself off as an unambiguous closed case, like it’s smoothing off any roughness that may have added a higher level of danger.

Young Ahmed has been put together in an unfussy manner, with zero cinematic flourish. It, in fact, feels like it goes too far and shows some technical incompetence, such as some overly-simplistic cinematography and some overblown lighting. But the focus is on the young central character, who puts his radical views on display more than his emotions. Young Ahmed shows the emotional – or more so emotionless – mindset of a radical, and then shows the unusual place rehabilitation can come from.


Young Ahmed plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, March 9 – Sunday, March 15 at 7:30pm.

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