Raja (Najat Benssallem) is a 19-year-old Moroccan girl. An orphan, she's led a difficult life, but has gotten off the streets and lives with her cousin Nadira (Ilham Abdelwahad) and her family. Raja and Nadira are happy to get low-paying jobs working in the garden of a wealthy middle-aged Frenchman, Fred (Pascal Greggory). Fred is immediately attracted to the new girl and the other girls tease Raja about his interest, encouraging her to go after his money. Fred discusses his growing infatuation with his two elderly cooks, Oum El Aid (Oum El Aid Ait Youss) and Zineb (Zineb Ouchita), who try to discourage his interest. Because they don't speak the same language, Fred and Raja often have to rely on others to translate as they dance around each other. Fred hires Raja to be his maid, and flirts shamelessly with her. She's intrigued, and desperate to change her life, but she keeps him at a distance, uncertain of the seriousness of his interest. Raja has a boyfriend, Youssef (Hassan Khissal), who resents her relationship with the Frenchman; in addition, her brother (Abdelilah Lamrani), who pimped her out as a girl, still tries to control her life, taking a share of the money she earns. He plans for her to marry a policeman he knows. Fred struggles with his emotions. They obviously feel something for each other, but the cultural and economic differences between them may be too immense to overcome. Raja, written and directed by Jacques Doillon (Ponette), was shown at the 2003 New York Film Festival. Benssallem won the Marcello Mastroianni Award (for best first performance) at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. … More
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Critic Reviews for Raja
An unsettling look at Third World politics in the guise of a love story.
Extremely well acted, though the direction by Jacques Doillon is on the leisurely side.
There's little to enjoy in this unsettling tale, but Doillan's unblinking depiction of manipulation and desperation stays with you long after the characters make the deals that seal their unjust fates.
Masterful tale of frustrated desire.
What distinguishes Raja from every other movie to contemplate the treacherous intersection of passion, avarice and power is its unsettling emotional honesty.
Subtle filmmaking and true-as-life acting make this an acute psychological drama with an engrossing sociological subtext.
Ambiguous and elusive, this film's soft-focus may strike a chord with those who do not look for clear spoon-fed answers.
Raja is an engaging cross-cultural drama set in Morocco about a wealthy middle-aged Frenchman's yearning for a nineteen-year-old local girl who works in his garden.
This story of a dissolute Frenchman who uses his money to exploit desperately poor Moroccan girls is upsetting because it pretends to be about love.
Audience Reviews for Raja
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