Title: Young Ahmed
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring: Idir Ben Addi, Olivier Bonnaud, Myriem Akheddiou
Runtime: 90 minutes
What it is: A Belgian teenager hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran.
What We Think: In 1995 John Singleton released Higher Learning, a powerful look into social dynamics on college campuses. It gave a powerful warning of the ease in how the young are guided in ideological thought processes they can not fully understand the ramifications of.
Young Ahmed takes this same warning and expands it to an even younger generation, demonstrating how their age, compiled with social needs, creates a human weapon capable of focus on even the most incomprehensible actions.
We are introduced to Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) already far deep in his dedication to a radical form of Muslim Faith. There are hints as to why such a young man adopted these ideals so quickly; a charismatic leader, an involved older brother, the loss of his father, the loss of a close cousin who martyred himself for the same cause, yet it seems none fully explain the true anger that lies behind Ahmed’s disdain. He wraps himself in the misconceptions put forth by his radical Islamic leader to justify his disapproval of all the women in his life, including his teacher, which ultimately leads to his first violent act, demonstrative of a very lost child.
As Ahmed progresses through the legal process, one can not help note his calm and manipulative behavior in an effort to achieve the act he believes will endear him to his cause. It’s nail-biting to watch, but more so that you understand that in times when children are most vulnerable and most exposed to information, lack of critical thought can truly play out in the most frightening of ways.
His tenacity, in the end, his drive to accomplish his goal, reminds us of the power false ideals have over faith. For it is frequently demonstrated amongst the noted Muslim characters in the film that it is not in their religion to hate but in the nature of men.
Our Grade: A, Young Ahmed, or La Jeune Ahmed, allows the audience an inside view into the radicalization of faith. It reminds us that other nations, in this case, France, touch upon these topics in film because it is important to understand the very human aspect behind the hate. Like Higher Learning, now left amongst underrated films in a country that fails to see its own faith-based radicalization out of fear of admitting the source, Young Ahmed reminds us that it is still in play, and still every bit as powerful amongst the youth. Though we were not privy to the actions that caused a young Ahmed to take on such ideals, the film still shows us the power of determination and the force of such commitment to thoughts, versus the humanity of faith.