Prolific Dutch director Mijke de Jong provocatively frames radicalization as an expression of teenage rebellion and idealism in her latest film, the tough but heartbreaking LAYLA M. Played with assured grace by newcomer Nora El Koussour, Layla is an 18-year-old daughter of middle class Moroccan immigrants in Amsterdam. A crush on devout Muslim Abdel and a need to demonstrate independence from her parents spark with burgeoning local Islamophobia to ignite a passion in Layla for religion. Convinced she can do more good in the Middle East than in school in the Netherlands, Layla looks for a way out. LAYLA M. tells its ripped-from-the-headlines story with realism and sensitivity that humanizes the faces behind the veils. — Gillian Horvat
Born in 1959, Mijke de Jong is a Dutch filmmaker. She won the Crystal Bear for Best Feature at the Berlin International Film Festival for BLUEBIRD (2004) and the Golden Calf for Best Director at the Netherlands Film Festival for TUSSENSTAND (2007), among other awards. LAYLA M. was nominated for the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival.