Copilot: Portrait of a relationship destroyed by fanaticism

Story of young love becomes tale of the humanity underlying extremism

Copilot: Technically impressive and anchored by two terrific turns

Film Title: Copilot

Director: Anne Zohra Berrached

Starring: Canan Kir, Roger Azar, Darina Al Joundi, Hans Jürgen Alf

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 121 min

Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 05:00

   

Anne Zohra Berrached’s follow-up to her Berlinale-shortlisted 24 Weeks initially plays like a tale of young love before shifting gear to become a fictionalised, carefully researched and partly improvised chronicle of the relationship between one of the 9/11 terrorists and his wife. Specifically, Copilot dramatises aspects from the life of the United 93 hijacker, Lebanon-born Ziad Jarrah, renamed here as Saeed (Roger Azar). 

Gifted Turkish medical science student Aysel Sengun, now called Asli (Canan Kir), immediately falls for the funny, bright, equally promising Saeed when they meet in Germany, where he is studying dentistry, a profession he suggests is redundant, because Germans don’t smile.

They’re globalised young people who speak a mixture of German, English and Arabic, and they’re generally secularised, up for passionate extramarital sex, and capable of drinking shots. The one stumbling block is Asil’s fear of telling her Turkish mother that she is living with an Arab. 

They finally marry, nevertheless, just as Saeed’s behaviour and beliefs appear to harden. Suddenly, he’s lecturing mutual friends, and sometimes Asil, about smoking and other activities he no longer approves of. “You sound like a fanatic,” she tells him. Still, their wedding vows include a clause to keep his secrets. Insofar as he divulges them. 

There is no insight into Saeed’s radicalisation beyond Asil’s experiences of untranslated overheard conversation and later, unexplained disappearances.

“Why are you off to Yemen?” she asks angrily. “Trust me,” is his only response.
Technically impressive and anchored by two terrific turns, Copilot walks a fine line as it attempts to delve into the humanity under extremism.

On limited release from September 10th