The dynamic duo of Icarus Films and Distrib Films take a detour in terms of both location and theme as to their October 20, 2020 joint DVD release of the "based on actual events" 2019 drama "Papicha." This movie set in 1997 Algeria during the civil war in that nation is a departure from the equally good typical Icarus/Distrib release of a film set in modern-day France. Another variation is our lead Nedjma dealing with present-day strife, rather than a struggle to come to terms with past trauma-and-drama that is a regular theme of these foreign gems.
The nine awards and seven additional nominations for "Papicha" validate the quality of this story that could be an overblown melodrama in hands other than those of writer/director Mounia Meddour. The wins include 2020 Cesar Awards for Most Promising Actress for Nedjma portrayor Lyna Khourdi and Best Firm Film for Team Meddour.
Our story begins with Nedjma and two classmates at her all-girls school sneaking out to go clubbing; the party temporarily ends on the girls having to scramble into traditional Muslim garb on being pulled over by the authorities. This encounter does not prevent the single ladies from getting their groove back at the club. That dance scene is comparable to the seemingly obligatory one in Icarus films.
Getting stranded when closing time does not require going home but necessitates leaving the club finds Nedjma and a friend accepting the kindness of two studly strangers. This contributes to the theme of the male/female dynamic in Algeria that is not unique to that repressed nation. This also is relevant to the theme of women who reject the old ways seeking escape from Algeria by almost any possible means. An unplanned (and exceptionally troublesome even for Algeria) pregnancy further reflects the pitfalls of willing to do anything to emigrate.
The aching of Nedjma for personal and professional fulfillment leads to her planning a fashion show of her largely covert business that has subjected her to both hostility and exploitation. A confrontation with a herd of uber-Karens derails those plans, A school official whose understanding of the repression of her students involves only partial willful blindness does not help matters.
Every element of "Papicha" being very far from California makes it far from certain that we will get a Hollywood ending in which the girl gets it all in the form of the man of her dreams and a high-profile career. It is assured that all of our leads are disproportionately older and wiser if not more happy. Sadly, the same is true for most of use during this global pandemic.