Synopsis by Josh Ralske
Raja (Najat Benssallem) is a 19-year-old Moroccan girl. An orphan, she's led a difficult life, but has gotten off the streets and lives with her cousin Nadira (Ilham Abdelwahad) and her family. Raja and Nadira are happy to get low-paying jobs working in the garden of a wealthy middle-aged Frenchman, Fred (Pascal Greggory). Fred is immediately attracted to the new girl and the other girls tease Raja about his interest, encouraging her to go after his money. Fred discusses his growing infatuation with his two elderly cooks, Oum El Aid (Oum El Aid Ait Youss) and Zineb (Zineb Ouchita), who try to discourage his interest. Because they don't speak the same language, Fred and Raja often have to rely on others to translate as they dance around each other. Fred hires Raja to be his maid, and flirts shamelessly with her. She's intrigued, and desperate to change her life, but she keeps him at a distance, uncertain of the seriousness of his interest. Raja has a boyfriend, Youssef (Hassan Khissal), who resents her relationship with the Frenchman; in addition, her brother (Abdelilah Lamrani), who pimped her out as a girl, still tries to control her life, taking a share of the money she earns. He plans for her to marry a policeman he knows. Fred struggles with his emotions. They obviously feel something for each other, but the cultural and economic differences between them may be too immense to overcome. Raja, written and directed by Jacques Doillon (Ponette), was shown at the 2003 New York Film Festival. Benssallem won the Marcello Mastroianni Award (for best first performance) at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.
boys'-club, brother, gardener, maid, Morocco, teenagers, orphan