Film of the Month: You Resemble Me

Posted by Fabio 3 February 2023

Cultural and intergenerational trauma erupt in this story about two sisters on the outskirts of Paris. After the siblings are torn apart, the eldest, Hasna, struggles to find her identity, leading to a choice that shocks the world. Director Dina Amer takes on one of the darkest issues of our time and deconstructs it in an intimate story about family, love, sisterhood, and belonging.

As a Muslim Egyptian woman living in the West, I’ve struggled to reconcile pieces of my identity that feel contradictory. I am a woman who has spent the majority of my life praying discreetly in public spaces (airports are the hardest). And yet I don’t look like what most of society envisions as a Muslim woman. I don’t wear a hijab and I love Cardi B. Throughout my life I’ve lived through the shadow of how the failure to reconcile a Muslim Western identity with such clear contradictions can result in a haunting headline.

This film is a journey through layers of disassociation, from the personal and familial to the religious and colonial; a kaleidoscope of splintered identities and fractured dreams. YOU RESEMBLE ME explores the unexamined roots of trauma and the devastating decision that one woman made in the name of belonging. The mission of this film is not to excuse her choice but to examine how she arrived at that decision. The intention of this exploration is that it can help inform us as a society how to safeguard other individuals from falling into the same traps.

In the making of the film, I drew from my experience within underserved and marginalized communities; there are so many people who resemble the main character, Hasna. Many people desperately seek a sense of identity, family, direction, and love in all the wrong places, yet some — like Hasna — grab our attention in the worst way when their search goes wrong.

It was not until I spent six months with incarcerated men at Rikers Island prison during a cinema and theater exchange, that I realized I cannot define someone by their worst action, and that every human is worthy of redemption. In seeking to understand Hasna, I saw myself in her humanity and her family saw me in her. Hence, the title, You Resemble Me.

It was important for me to allow the audience an experience where they can put themselves in her shoes and experience her multiplicity and moments of disassociation.I believe at times we can all step outside of who we are and mutate into other versions of ourselves in order to gain a sense of belonging.

I also wanted to maintain the fact that Hasna is a real woman and we will never truly know who she was or how exactly she felt but the best we can do through a fictional lens is to allow women who come from a similar identity as her to step into her shoes and feel the weight of her experience.

The script was written after recording over 300 hours of interviews with Hasna’s real family and inner circle. As a “recovering” journalist, the discovery and writing process became my personal redemption. I had felt the weight of simplifying human lives into headlines to feed diminishing attention spans. But as I spent time with Hasna’s family, Youssef, her brother, said to me: “Very simply, if you want to know why my sister made [the choices she made], it comes down to one thing: it’s this woman’s fault.” And he pointed to his mother. I was stunned because I instantly understood there is a layer to this complicated story that’s just about a dysfunctional family.
The film is an invitation to look before and behind the headlines, not for absolute truths or permanent answers, but an insistence on lifting the veils and beginning the conversations that conceal our shared humanity. There are no monsters to slay if we dare to search, discover and unleash the power and promise of sisterhood—the gift Hasna cherished and the only home she ever had._Dina Amer

You Resemble Me is out in UK cinemas and on digital from February 3.