Within the first ten minutes of “Athena,” we witness a tense press conference devolve into a riot as angry youths storm a police station and witness a thrilling race back to the city’s fortifications with their loot. . After a barrage of breathtaking action and jaw-dropping camerawork, the director decides to call the cut when they triumph over the barricade and win.
Karim (played by newcomer Sami Suliman) is grieving the loss of his brother, beaten to death by uniformed police officers. This is her third in two months of police brutality in Athena, a poor community on the outskirts of Paris. He wants a name, but police deny responsibility. His older brother Abdel (Dali Bensala, “No Time to Die”) is a peace soldier and his older brother Koktar (Uassini Embalek) is a drug dealer who has turned the riots into a business. I’m worried about having a bad influence. Karim, meanwhile, has emerged as a figurehead ready to lead a generation into battle.
Shortly after the assault, police descended on Athena and turned the youths down. Sandwiched between them are my parents and my extended family. The film questions their passivity while seeking sympathy for them, and Jerome (Anthony Bajon), a terrified officer, also gets into the fray. But mostly it conveys Karim’s righteous anger, which was not persuaded by his brother’s intervention.
Gavras and co-authors Ladj Ly and Elias Belkeddar tell the story of the siege that takes place almost entirely within Athena’s concrete labyrinth, building on a series of long takes that highlight the chaos of skirmishes and Karim’s makeshift plans. build to Captured with IMAX cameras, Molotov his cocktails and Roman candles are lit up at night. Masses of corpses fill the corridors, scurry across the rooftops, and collide with each other to the sound of baroque music.
What if the Trojan War broke out in a Paris housing complex? It might look like this. With clashing brothers, mythologized men and epic scale, Athena is reminiscent of ancient Greek tragedies. But the pain has taken root today, and I feel it. This is a brave movie from the general behind the camera. One that inevitably draws attention to the art of war, which is filmmaking itself. The logistics of it all make heads turn.
“Athena” is now in select cinemas and will be released on Netflix on September 23rd.
Interview: Romain Gavras, writer and director
Gavras, who has done a number of music videos, including Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild,” is no stranger to capturing uprisings. But he had never done it on this scale before, citing epics such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” as inspiration for “Athena.” No wonder there are.
“There’s no CGI in this movie. We’re doing everything for real,” says Gavras. “Oddly enough, the plan was almost military and very precise to cause chaos in front of the cameras.
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