SXSW Premiere Film Review – “Profile”

SXSW Premiere Film Review – “Profile”

March 13
19:45 2018

Director and producer Timur Bekmambetov has been known to step outside the box in the realm of traditional filmmaking.

His two most recent works, Unfriended, 2014, and Hardcore Henry, 2015, both follow a similar first-person, interactive film style where the audience is watching the story unfold through the eyes of the protagonist, or in the case of Profile, between screens.

“We live on screens these days,” Timur Bekmambetov said. “This movie has a language that is very unique.”

Based on her book In the Skin of a Jihadist by Anna Erelle, Profile follows the narrative of young journalist Amy (Valene Kane) who is working on a special story assignment, observing Jihadists. Her goal is to ultimately expose the ISIS recruitment of young women and reveal the processes behind the kidnapping, sex trafficking and deaths of these women.

Amy is warned by her editor of the potential dangers and possible outcome this assignment may bring, but she — being a bad ass journalist — decides to go forward with the story.

She creates a fake Facebook account under the name “Melody” where she then manages to get in contact with an ISIS fighter and recruiter named Abu Bilel Al-Britani.

“Bilel” (Shazad Latif) is a young, attractive and alluring Jihadist who uses his charm and amorous behavior to trick even undercover journalist Melody into eventually falling for him.

“It’s a very strange experience, seeing a movie that is [filmed] small screen on a big screen,” Latif said. “Especially in such an intimate, online setting.”

The film is seen through the screen of Amy, and is told through ongoing Skype exchanges between her and Bilel, numerous google research searches and a perfectly fitting iTunes playlist.

Throughout Profile, the audience is sent through various loopholes and drastic plot twists.

The audience lowkey cheers on the “forbidden romance” between villain and hero, as well as mentally tearing apart the situation, debating the ethical standpoints of “how much is too much” and comparing the two different cultures and underlying moral premises.

With the amount of context and passion that comes out of this film, it is hard to believe that Profile was filmed in only nine days.

Both Kane and Latif screen recorded all of their own scenes and worked with Bekmambetov and the crew to perfect their performance.

In fact, all of the auditions for the casting call were conducted via Skype, as writer Olga Kharina said during the ending credits Q&A panel discussion.

“We wanted to see how they would act through the webcam,”  Kharina said.

Seeing a non-horror genre of film being done in this first-person style is really exciting. Especially for future filmmakers and journalists alike, this movie brought many different details forward that many wouldn’t consider initially.

In my personal opinion, Profile portrays what genuine journalism is all about. The struggle between understanding morals and ethics and how hard it can be to balance life outside of the “office.”

This film also brings to light how intense the ISIS situation actually is and how social media can be be extremely dangerous.

Since it’s initial premiere in North America, Profile is nominated for the SXSW Film Awards, and it has already been awarded the Panorama Audience Award in the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.

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Nina Quatrino

Nina Quatrino

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