Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah are two to watch. Off the heels of their ill-fated Batgirl—which was fully completed then unjustly axed by Warner Bros. for tax write-off purposes—the Belgian-Moroccan filmmakers make their triumphant return with Rebel. Batgirl wasn’t their first run at big studio filmmaking, however. After getting their break with crime-dramas Black and Gangsta, the pair branched out worldwide, helming the third installment of the Bad Boys franchise, Bad Boys for Life, in 2020—which would remain the highest-grossing film at the domestic box-office that (unconventional) year.
Two years later, they premiered Rebel at Cannes, where member Jules deemed it their personal Palme d’Or winner. Adil and Bilall’s action-packed—and, occasionally, musical— epic then screened theatrically around Europe; another year (plus four months) later, and their labor of love is finally seeing the light of a US release.
The plot concerns Kamal (Aboubakr Bensaïhi), a Belgian rapper from Morocco who leaves for the Syrian city of Raqqe to help victims of war. When an armed militia forces Kamal to join them against his will, his younger brother (Amir El Arbi) back in Belgium is lured by Islamic State recruiters with false promises of reuniting the siblings. “A musical and lyrical odyssey through one of the world’s darkest chapters throughout history—which is still ongoing and therefore even more vital,” writes Robbe, who goes on to call Rebel “a feat for Belgian cinema as a whole.” It’s the kind of humanist filmmaking with genre flare that makes you wonder what this duo could do with, say, a movie about Batgirl. MLV