Rebel: the inner workings of jihad

Picture of the film REBEL by Adil EL ARBI and Bilal FALLAH © DR

Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are no strangers to action movies, with Gangsta, Bad Boys for Life and the up-coming Batgirl already under their belt. This time, they treat Cannes to a more personal film with Rebel. Shown as part of the Midnight Screenings, the Belgian-Moroccan directors' feature film demonstrates how Syrian jihadis are recruited through the tangled tale of two brothers.

Kamal (Aboubakr Bensaihi) travels to Syria to help victims of the war. Upon arriving in Raqqa, he is forced to enlist in an armed group. His young brother Nassim (Amir El Arbi) is seeking to join him, an easily influenced prey for the jihadi recruiters. His distraught mother Leïla (Lubna Azabal) embarks on a mission to do everything she can to protect her son.


The film paints a portrait of a time that both filmmakers experienced first-hand: a period that predates the Islamic State, when many Belgians with Moroccan roots set off for Syria. Some of them were enlisted in organisations upon arriving, and were radicalised, as was the case for some of the two directors' loved ones – it is precisely this experience that is translated through Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah's cameras. "We wanted to show just how romantic and heroic jihad can seem at first glance, and how religion is weaponised."