Over the past two decades, the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, have won two Palme d’Ors at Cannes, the first of which was for “Rosetta,” in 1999. Perhaps they’re going to be gunning for a third with “Young Ahmed,” a new drama playing in competition at the Cannes Film Festival next month that also threatens to be the Belgian filmmaker’s most controversial film to date.
Originally titled just “Ahmed,” the Dardennes’ eleventh feature-length film is a contemporary tale about a Belgian teenager who plots to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran. As one of the producers revealed last year, the drama “the tale of the radicalization of a young boy in Belgium. A strong aspect of the script is the way it opens a debate around the interpretation of the Quran by a young kid under the influence.”
Obviously, our world is already highly-charged, with anti-Muslim sentiment, the immigration crisis around the world hasn’t helped fuel hatred and fear of the unknown, and these are dangerous and murky waters to navigate. “Young Ahmed” could easily be seen as anti-Muslim, exploitative and perhaps even irresponsible.
The official synopsis, not much different from what’s above is this:
A Belgian teenager hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran.
The French synopsis, translated from French is even more ominous:
In Belgium, today, the fate of the young Ahmed, 13 years old, taken between the ideals of purity of his imam and the calls of life.
The latter description, albeit, possibly lost in translation sounds like a 24-hour, day in the life type thing ala Gus Van Sant‘s “Elephant,” but who knows?
Film Twitter has already been in a fuss about the film with some people pre-condemning the Dardennes for taking on such a potentially reckless subject. All I can say about it is the Dardennes are some of the most empathetic and compassionate filmmakers on the planet, so if anyone is going to give this subject and story a fair, responsible shake it’s them.
We’ll find out soon. “Young Ahmed” debuts in competition in Cannes soon. The Cannes Film Festival runs May 14-May 25. Watch the new trailer below.