Papicha is Algerian slang for a hip, pretty girl. It’s a fitting description for Nedjma and her friends, all students trying to make the most of life in a time where it’s becoming increasingly difficult. Radical forces are getting a firm grip of 1990s Algeria, and the situation is intensifying rapidly. The streets become papered with billboards demanding women to wear burqas and take care of their image ― or else the regime will. As the unrest escalates and leads to a personal tragedy, Nedjma decides to rebel the way she knows best: by organizing a fashion show. While considered an uncontroversial act during normal circumstances, Nedjma’s plans are not well-received in a society where fundamental forces permeate.
Papicha demonstrates how religious extremism leads to crisis and exacerbates the situation for women. And yet ― in-between the hopelessness ― this is an inspiring story about perseverance, sisterhood and creativity. The film premiered during the Cannes Film Festival and was Algeria’s contribution to the Oscar for best Best Foreign Language Film.