Freesia

 

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Violence on the streets of Bradford calls forth a deeply humane film.


Freesia
  

The most important point that needs to be made about Freesia is that it is the real thing. February 2018 saw the release here of Mitu Misra’s Lies We Tell which, set in present-day Bradford, told a story centred on the Muslim community, but it played like an inferior thriller taking advantage of genuine social issues. Nothing could be more different than Freesia because here that same community is portrayed in a way that shows a passionate concern for these people. That’s entirely apt because Conor Ibrahiem, credited as writer, producer, editor and director, made this film in 2014 as a first move into filmmaking by Arakan Creative, the Islamic theatre company that he had created in 2009.

 

Unfortunately, Freesia was barely noticed when it reached cinemas in July 2017, but it can now, as it becomes available on DVD, be recommended as a deeply felt albeit uneven piece. The story it tells pivots on the stabbing of a leading figure in the local mosque, Rehman played by Mohammed Rafique. His assailant is white, a working class boy named Zac (Matthew Thomas) who is the victim of an unhappy home. He has turned racist and expresses the belief that a penknife rather than a pen is needed to bring about change. His action inevitably affects Yusuf (Aqib Khan), the son of the man attacked, but equally there are repercussions in the household of Khondija (Afsaneh Dehrouyeh) who has not revealed to her parents that she witnessed the assault.

 

It is not an uncommon fault to find a filmmaker so close to his or her material that the need to tell a story clearly is inadequately realised.  Especially in its first half, Freesia sometimes falls into this trap with an unexpected early flashback, a series of short scenes that fail to communicate meaningfully before fading to black and an inability to name and establish fully all of the characters who feature in the film's relatively extended cast. But, if Ibrahiem still has things to learn, his self-evident humanity shines through here. He cares about the people depicted and, while recognising fully the tensions that exist and the Islamophobia that threatens, he is keen to stress what Muslims and Christians share - not for nothing is Yusuf’s best friend a white Christian. Indeed, if there is a hero in this tale it is the man who is stabbed, a Muslim who interprets the Koran as calling for respect for all fair-minded non-Muslims. Above all Ibrahiem’s film challenges Zac’s belief that change of whatever kind cannot be brought about by non-violent means: the only way forward is through shared talk and Freesia is a film that is part of that conversation.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Afsaneh Dehrouyeh, Aqib Khan, Mohammed Rafique, Matthew Thomas, Samantha Mesagno, Chris Madej, Abas Elijanabi, John Weaver, Iona Thonger, Mouna Albakry, Mark Morrell, Maureen Willis.

 

Dir Conor Ibrahiem, Pro Conor Ibrahiem, Screenplay Conor Ibrahiem, Ph Daniele Cruccolini, Ed Conor Ibrahiem, Music Rupert Uzzell, Costumes Bilal Saddiq.

 

Arakan Creative.-Film Volt Ltd.
91 mins. UK. 2017. DVD Rel: 29 April 2018. Cert. 12A
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