Synopsis by Mark Deming
The Nazi occupation of France brings together Arabs and Jews against a common enemy in this drama from director Ismael Ferroukhi, inspired by actual incidents. Younes (Tahar Rahim) came to France from Algeria in search of a better life, but after landing a good job in a factory, the political turmoil that swept through Europe with the rise of the Third Reich left him with few options beyond hustling on the black market. His cousin Ali (Farid Larbi) is a labor activist who, after the rise of the Vichy government, began working with the anti-Nazi French resistance. When Younes is captured by the police while selling unlicensed goods, he's given a choice -- he can go to jail or act as a spy, keeping the authorities posted on the activities at a local mosque, which is a hub for resistance fighters. As well as organizing anti-Nazi espionage, the resistance agents at the mosque are believed to be hiding Jewish families and passing them off as Muslims. Younes proves to be not much of a spy as his loyalties are with Ali and his comrades, and he becomes involved with Leila (Lubna Azabal), who, in addition to her work at the mosque, is a vocal advocate of Algerian independence. Younes and Ali also are drawn into the orbit of Salim (Mahmud Shalaby), a seemingly apolitical Algerian vocalist who is hiding a surprising secret. Les Hommes Libres (aka Free Men) received its North American premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
activism, advocacy, Algeria, Arab, black-market, factory-worker, France, Jewish, mosque, Muslim, Nazi, political-unrest, resistance, singer, spy, Third-Reich