SXSW 2024 Review: HOOD WITCH, Golshifteh Farahani Runs For Her Life In This Literal Witch Hunt

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
SXSW 2024 Review: HOOD WITCH, Golshifteh Farahani Runs For Her Life In This Literal Witch Hunt

A trafficker of rare animals finds herself in the crosshairs of a literal witch hunt when a young boy plummets to his death following a visit in Saïd Belktibia’s Hood Witch, celebrating its international premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.

When we meet Nour, a powerful Golshifteh Farahani proving once again that she is a force to be reckoned with, the image is almost comical. A woman going through security at an airport is stopped for a check, only to discover that she is literally crawling with tiny rare animals strapped to her clothes. Nour is an entrepreneur, she provides the rare animals that local mystics and witches need to complete their spells, which are relied upon by many in the close-knit Muslim community along the outskirts of Paris. It’s an illicit trade, but it’s not the only business she’s got brewing, her real dream is to get out of the smuggling business and into the App space, creating a digital portal for witches and sorcerers to connect with those in need of their services. A related business for sure, but much less risky and can be done from home.

Her partner in crime is her son, Amine (Amine Zariouhi), a precocious pre-teen who helps take care of the wee beasties that reside in her flat and is her beating heart and the reason she’s trying to do better for herself. While on a walk Amine runs into his friend Kevin (Mathieu Espagnet), a troubled kid who lives with his father Jules (Denis Lavant). In a desperate attempt to relieve some of the torment that Kevin is suffering, Jules invites Nour over to try a spell to bring him comfort, but it doesn’t work and as she’s leaving, Kevin’s body hits the concrete beside her. Jules blames her for Kevin’s death while in a fit of grief leaning out the window, and the entire Muslim community descends on Nour, determined to bring her to justice.

The next eighty minutes of Hood Witch is an extended chase scene as Nour darts and weaves through the suburbs, looking for a friendly face to help her, but finding nothing. When her son is snatched from her by pursuers who had seen her on Instagram – she’s become a social media villain, thanks to local religious leaders – Nour has to stay alive long enough to save him, and that will take her places she never thought she’d go.

Loosely based on the life and occupation of Belktibia’s own mother, Hood Witch serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media, religious fanaticism, unchecked black marketeering, and misogyny that is wrapped in a tight chase movie and it’s thrilling. A single mother in a community that seems unwelcoming, Nour finds a way to support herself and Amine in one of the only vocations that has favored women over the centuries, witchcraft. The problem is that as much as women are seen as the ones with power in that position, it has been used for just as long as an excuse for persecution, and persecute her they do, even though she jumped into the business for the money, not out of any belief system.

Taking place over the course of two days, Hood Witch gives the audience very little chance to catch its breath. Infrequent check-ins with local news reports and pauses to illuminate the role of social media in her immediate predicament help keep the audience informed of the stakes, though perhaps they are overly aggressive with this tactic in the film as it would likely play just as well without it and these elements might date Hood Witch more quickly than it deserves. However, this is a minor concern in an otherwise positive experience that deserves attention. A survival thriller set in a rarely explored world is a welcome addition to 2024’s genre film repertoire, and Belktibia’s voice is one that I cannot wait to hear more of.

Hood Witch

  • Saïd Belktibia
  • Saïd Belktibia
  • Louis Penicaut
  • Golshifteh Farahani
  • Denis Lavant
  • Jérémy Ferrari
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Golshifteh FarahaniSaïd BelktibiaSXSW 2024Louis PenicautDenis LavantJérémy FerrariThriller

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