In November 2015 Paris experienced a wave of terrorist bombings; one, in particular, was wrongly attributed by the media to Hasna Ait Boulahcen, Europe’s supposedly first female suicide bomber. Writer and director Dina Amer – who at the time was a journalist for Vice and reported the story – begins to right her fake news reporting telling the fractured and tragic life of Hasna.

The film opens the first half of the story following Hasna (Lorenza Grimaudo), the child of a reluctant, abusive mother who would rather sleep all day than take care of her children. Hasna’s closest sibling is Sister Miriam (Ilonna Grimaudo), her doppelganger shadow who idolises her older sister. Dressed in the same dress, which Hasna has stolen for her as a present for Miriam’s birthday, Amer begins to show, via various close-up shots, the absolute intimacy of the pair as they wander the streets of Paris playing. Having returned home, Hasna, Miriam and her brothers sing dance and play waking their Mother. After a considerable fight with her Mother, Hasna is kicked out of the house and takes Miriam with her.

Having spent the night on the streets, the pair are picked up by child services, yet again. Torn apart and reeled out to different Foster parents. In this one particularly heart-wrenching scene, Hasna fights with all her might not to be separated from her sister. Confidently setting the seed and asking the question, had they not been parted would Hasna have become a broken woman, one who constantly struggled to find her place in society which ultimately led her down the wrong path?

Amer swiftly cuts to an adult Hasna (Mouna Soualem) dancing in a club under the hedonistic gaze of the camera. Hasna finds herself constantly downtrodden not just for her race but for her gender too. In this more roughly composed second half, Hasna does what she can to make ends meet from working as a prostitute to being rejected from joining the military. Spending many months sleeping at a friend’s, finally deciding through the influence of a long lost cousin that embracing her Islamic faith and her ideals to help those suffering in Syria, Palestine and the like is the right path to take, but one that ultimately led to her tragic end.

During this period Amer cleverly uses editing trickery to empathise the morphing of Hasna’s face with different actresses including her own, simply to depict that Hasna is in all women especially those who struggle to find their belonging. Being a journalist first and with the backing of Spike Lee and Spike Jonze as executive producers, Amer has thoroughly conducted her research to construct the picture of the real woman behind the veil. Interviewing both family and friends gives this a more personal touch – one that finally gives Hasna the identity she longed craved for.

By finalising the picture turning to a documentary format including news footage from Hasna’s last moments pleading for the police to let her out, to testimonies from her family and friends rounds out the sombre tragedy of cultural unacceptance with a heavy weeping heart.