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VIFF 2018 – Sofia

The 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival is underway and we’re sending writers out to enjoy it.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks, as they share their thoughts about this year’s films.


Directed by: Meryem Benm’barek

Sofia follows the struggle of 20-year old Sofia (Maha Alemi) who gives birth out of wedlock, which is considered a crime in her home country of Morocco. The film begins with Sofia’s water breaking, catching her unaware that she is even pregnant. With help from her cousin Lena (Sarah Perles), Sofia gives birth and declares the baby’s father as a young man named Omar (Hamza Khafif). He is shocked, but must marry Sofia in order to keep their families out of legal trouble. With many unexpected twists, the film then follows Sofia’s path and the choices she makes for her family.

Sofia subtly begins to make choices that develop her into a young woman of character

Through her main characters, Benm’barek represents the three social classes that have formed throughout Morocco’s history. First we have Sofia who is considered middle-class, contrasting her more affluent, well-educated cousin Lena, who belongs to Morocco’s upper-class. Lena speaks more French, signifying Morocco’s higher society, while Sofia sticks to an Arabic-French dialect. Lena’s clothing and makeup are also more modern than Sofia’s traditional Moroccan style and no makeup. Omar represents the lower class, denoted through his outdated attire and run-down neighbourhood. He must go along with Sofia, accountable to her pregnancy, which I took to represent levels of power within Morocco’s social classes.

Sofia comes across as rather apathetic. She shows little to no emotion, almost appearing to be annoyed or tired (or both?). For this reason, it’s harder to connect with her, but we do notice a slight shift in her character after she gives birth. Sofia subtly begins to make choices that develop her into a young woman of character who sacrifices her own wellbeing for that of her family.

Overall, Sofia was a very engaging film with insight into how differently pregnancy is viewed around the world. The cast’s genuine performance and the crew’s fine-tuned cinematography really shows off the creative power of Morocco’s film industry.