SXSW 2016: “Black” Movie Review by Ashley Menzel

SXSW 2016: Black Movie Review


Definitely the most emotionally jarring film I have seen this year, Black, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, is a modern day “Romeo and Juliet” story set in Belgium. The film opens with an implied rape scene which sets a serious tone for the rest of the film. In this town, there are two gangs pitted against each other, The Black Bronx and the 1080s. The Black Bronx are Africans and the 1080s are Moroccan. Within these gangs are our lovers, Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio) in the Black Bronx and Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi) in the 1080s. They meet while they are both at the police station after being arrested. Marwan gives Mavela his number and their relationship progresses from there.

The gang life is tough for them and The Black Bronx is an extremely tough group, fronted by X (Emmanuel Tahon). He works for an older gentleman selling drugs and running the streets. Marwan’s brother, Nassim (Soufinane Chilah) ends up in jail and tells Marwan he must take care of everyone, especially Loubna (Sanaa Bourrassse), his girlfriend.

There continues to be collisions of the two gangs. X tells Mavela to bring back Loubna to the gang’s place and they proceed to rape her. Mavela tries to stop them and gets put into a closet. Later on, X discovers that Mavela is seeing Marwan and he teaches her a lesson by having the entire gang rape her. This is such a powerful and disturbing scene and has such impact.

There are some extremely rough scenes and images in this film that are really disturbing but show a true grit and reality to the situations in which these people live. I found it extremely well done that they even took the time to humanize X’s character showing that he has had some really terrible things happen to him. It doesn’t also let his actions be considered justified or okay, but just allows you a little insight into what goes on in his mind and what he has gone through.

While the storyline is very familiar, it is the honesty and passion with which this story is told that is especially riveting. There isn’t anything that is sugar coated or made easy to digest. It is the gritty reality of the lives of people who deal with these situations and are involved with gangs. It also shows the difficult everyday life of immigrants in a community in which they don’t feel welcome and will always be treated as foreigners.

This is an extremely well-made and well-acted film. There are some really rough scenes to get through and it definitely isn’t made to make anyone feel comfortable but I truly feel that the subject matter deserves attention. Bravo to the filmmakers on giving everyone such an honest look into parts of the world we wish we didn’t know.

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