The first feature from writer-director Mounia Meddour, Papicha, is set during the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s, also referred to as the “Black Decade,” and was inspired by real events. It tells the story of a young woman obsessed with fashion whose freedom, like that of all other women in the country, was increasingly curbed until there was basically nothing else to do but either rebel (and very likely lose) or leave — both, of course, being devastating outcomes.
The Hollywood Reporter
This is a film designed to be championed by everyone wanting to support a woman’s right to self-expression: It’s got a female director (not a novelty in the Maghreb), depicts powerful young women refusing to bow down to fundamentalism, and is bursting with energy and likable figures.
“Papicha” (the word is Algerian slang for a hip, pretty girl) nicely captures the fast-talking energy of Nedjima and her friends, frightened by the uncertainty of a country careening towards aggressive fundamentalism.
Unquestionably Mounia Meddour’s strengths lie in the filmmaking craft, including guiding her excellent company of actors in charismatic performances. Khoudri, already a known quantity thanks to her award-winning turn in The Blessed, makes Nedjima a captivating, strong-willed figure who lives in a state of highly-charged emotions; she’s nicely paired with newcomer Boutella, their sharp interplay providing the film’s greatest sparks.
Jay Weissberg, Variety