Zaineb takrahou ethelj (Zaineb Hates the Snow)
Preteens are fascinating. Continuously giving away how much they belong to childhood, while leaping ahead toward an adult world they both question and mimic. Give them a smartphone and they are on top of the world. They are full of opinions and passions. Girls especially are uncompromising: they’re not just friends, they’re BFF, but a quarrel implies hatred.
In Kaouther Ben Hania’s delightful third film Zaineb takrahou ethelj (Zaineb Hates the Snow), which follows a family over several years, two young ladies of the same age are made sisters by the marriage of their respective parents. The pairing is less spontaneous for the girls, who are like oil and water, or rather, sand and snow. Zaineb is an emotional girl whose sense of loyalty to her deceased father, her homeland of Tunisia and Islam is exacerbated by a forced relocation to Québec. Wijdene, on the other hand, never learned to speak Arabic. A deliberate kind of thinker, she’s happy to share her bedroom but challenges Zaineb’s ways. They are aware of their freedom, as Zaineb joyfully shouts in one of the film’s most unforgettable moments. Freedom to fall out and rekindle, for example. Seeing these 12 year olds debate with both conviction and open-mindedness on national identity and religion, one is tempted to request a drastic lowering of the voting age. Kate Wiltenson, queen of England, would certainly approve.