Writer/director Riad Sattouf is a French cartoonist with Syrian roots, and his film Jacky in the Kingdom of Women is a satiric fantasy that aims to skewer the proscribed gender roles for men and women, particularly within the Islamic arena.
Vincent Lacoste stars as Jacky, the most beautiful boy in the People's Democratic Republic of Bubunne. Here women run the show, while men are kept at home, tending to household chores while wearing burka-like robes that have large rings at the collar to which their leashes are attached. Horses are worshiped in Bubunne, and women run the military government which is headed by the General (Anémone), and all heretics and opponents are hanged or shot dead. A grand ball is about to take place during which the General’s daughter (Charlotte Gainsbourg) will choose a husband. All the unmarried young men make the hajj to the ball with the hope of becoming the chosen one.
Alas, poor Jacky. All the young women in his village make passes at him, wanting his hand in marriage. But the handsome lad with the kissable lips is protected by his mother, who keeps him to herself until her untimely demise. Jacky is then taken in by his aunt and uncle, who turn him into their own Cinderella. When the news of the ball arrives, Jacky’s evil uncle (Didier Bourdon) angles to have one of his own two sons chosen. Yet Jacky finds a clandestine way into the ball, where he is noticed by the General’s daughter. (Although Gainsbourg is no nymphomaniac here, you can count on the actress to put herself in service of other sexual transgressions.)
I can barely imagine the effect this French film would have on Muslim audiences, where the film’s stark “what ifs” would no doubt seem more barbed than they come across to Western audiences. The film’s fanciful wordplay is decently captured by the English subtitles, although I suspect there may be more here than meets the anglicized ear. Jacky in the Kingdom of Women is a fairy tale best suited to those who, sadly, will never have an opportunity to view it due to the repressive theocracies under which they live.
Jacky in the Kingdom of Women screens again Monday, Sept. 22, 2:45pm.
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