Hood Witch // A SXSW Review

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Republican politicians love attempting to take everyone’s rights away while claiming they are the victims of a “Witch Hunt” when they are met with pushback. The phrase has been co-opted so often that it is beginning to lose its meaning. This is sad because witch hunts have historically been about the patriarchy finding new ways to treat women inhumanely. So, when Hood Witch revealed itself to be about a woman at the center of a modern-day witch hunt, I leaned all the way in.

Hood Witch follows a single mom, Nour, who smuggles exotic animals and illicit products. Her goal is to get her son out of the city and on track to a better future. She develops an app to connect clients with marabouts that is a success until one consultation ends in tragedy. This causes her community to turn on Nour and demonize her instead of actually investigating what happened. She finds herself fighting for her life while protecting her son from the people they thought were their trusted friends and neighbors.

Let’s Go!

Golshifteh Farahani’s (Nour) performance, alone, is worth seeking the film out, even if nothing else works for you. She is captivating as a mother who wants to get her son away from the angry mob and to safety. Watching how she carries tension as she’s making up her escape plan as she goes, is a masterclass. Director/co-writer Saïd Belktibia gives her plenty to work with as she has to get creative to stay alive. We have so many cool scenes where she uses her resources to outwit the people chasing her.

Belktibia also utilizes our unescapable social media to share the public opinions, outrage, and general societal misogyny aimed at Nour. I thought these were kind of nice pauses from the action, and they felt like cool chapter breaks. However, even they become a tool that Nour wields to protect herself and her son. 

The Good Mom

One of the more frustrating, and realistic scenes, happens when Nour’s son, Amine (Amine Zariouhi), turns on her. Because kids are kids, he chooses to believe what the angry people on the internet are saying about his mom. He decides to run back to his deadbeat dad. This solidifies the feminist themes in the movie. How often do we see single moms carry the brunt of the child raising while the kids idolize the absent parent? It also is an alarming glimpse at how insidious the societal hatred of women is that her own son thinks she is to blame for something out of her control. 

However, his betrayal leads us to the deadbeat dad proving for the millionth time that his son would be better off without him. It also leads to how cruel some of the religions are that consider other people witches for using simple home remedies. I do not want to give too much away, but it is very telling how many men are involved in the super unethical practices the dad turns to for “help”. Again, this movie is a lot to unpack, and I look forward to giving it a second and third viewing.

While Hood Witch is not for everybody, I kind of dig it. The survival thriller is mostly chase sequences tying together a bunch of cool ideas that I could not help but lean into. However, all the ideas connect and are part of a bigger picture if we take a few steps back and examine it.