Total Film


PROFILE Time to update with Timur Bekmambeto­v’s innovative laptop thriller…


I According to Timur Bekmambeto­v (Wanted), there couldn’t be a better time to watch Profile, with lockdowns leaving everyone chained to their laptops. Or as he puts it: “A time when everyone from the terrorists to your government wants a piece of your digital exposure.” The film was made in 2018 – perhaps arriving before its time, as it certainly feels very of the moment.

Adopting the method Bekmambeto­v pioneered in 2014’s Unfriended – with the camera never cutting away from a computer screen – it’s an adap of French journalist Anna Erelle’s book In The Skin Of A Jihadist. Posing as a young girl to investigat­e ISIS recruitmen­t of vulnerable teens, Erelle’s actions led to a fatwa being issued against her. Even now, she’s forced to live under police protection.

“She shared with me the original recordings,” says the director. “It was so impactful, I wanted to recreate her story.” Relocating it to London, he cast Northern Irish actress Valene Kane as Amy Whittaker, a freelancer who sets up a fake Facebook account, claiming to be a recent Islam convert. She gets Shazad Latif’s ISIS soldier Bilel, who wants her to come to Syria and be his wife, to bite.

With Amy’s online interactio­ns with Bilel played out in real-time, the action was filmed simultaneo­usly – one team

in London filming Kane, another in Cyprus with Latif. “Of course we can shoot separately, but then you will lose the reality,” he says. “The reality is the most important thing in this.” The taut back-and-forth, as Bilel senses Amy may not be all she seems, propels Profile towards an intense conclusion.

Remarkably, in all of Bekmambeto­v’s dealings with Erelle (a pseudonym), he never found out her real name, so serious is the the situation. “It was a moral choice for her, to be brave, to release [the videos]. And she decided to release them because she understood we cannot live in fear.” Is he worried about his safety? “I’m filmmaker, I’m not a politician,” he shrugs.

“I’m just telling the stories.

And this is a real story.” JM


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