Maghreb and North African cinema

Ali Zaoua, prince de la rue

Nabil Ayouch | Morocco / Tunisia / France / Belgium | 2000 | 99 minutes

Ali, Kwita, Omar and Boubker are street kids. The daily dose of glue sniffing represents their only escape from reality. Since they left Dib and his gang, they have been living on the portside of Casablanca. They live in constant fear of Dib’s revenge. Ali wants to become a sailor – when he was living with his mother, a prostitute, he used to listen to a fairy tale about the sailor who discovered the miracle island with two suns. Instead of finding his island in the dream, Ali and his friends are confronted with Dib’s gang. Matters are getting serious

Wednesday, 16th November 2011 at 07:00 PM

Daughter of Keltoum / La Fille de Keltoum

Mehdi Charef | France / Belgium / Tunisia | 2001 | 106 minutes

A 19 year-old Swiss woman travels to her birthplace – an isolated, barren Berber settlement in the mountainous desert landscape of Algeria – to find her biological mother, who she has never met. The perilous journey immerses her in a world virtually untouched by contemporary society, one that still clings to tribal mores and strict religious codes of conduct.

Wednesday, 23rd November 2011 at 07:00 PM


Yamina Bachir | Algeria / France | 2002 | 100 minutes

Rachida examines the effects of the Algerian Civil War on the lives of its citizens and the impact the ongoing terrorism had on both their lives and psyches. Although still ensuing in some parts of Algeria today, the war principally ran between 1991 and 2002 and was sparked by the rising popularity of the Islamic Salvation Front party (FIS). Fearing they would be overthrown, the incumbent National Liberation Front cancelled the nation’s forthcoming elections and declared the opposing party illegal. The country came under military rule and in response to the banning and arrest of many FIS party members, Islamist guerrillas took up arms and engaged in a prolonged battle with the government and all who supported it. Forming into several groups, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) rampaged through the towns, initially targeting only the authorities, but many soon turned their attention to the civilian population. Over a span of 11 years, upwards of 200,000 lives were lost. It has been alleged that some of the killings were conducted by government agencies, who then publicly blamed the Islamists for the deaths.

This then forms the backdrop of the film, set somewhere within that time frame. Rachida is a young female school teacher in Algiers, for whom life is good: she has a stable and fulfilling job, a happy home life and a steady boyfriend. The peace is shattered one day when she is confronted and subsequently shot by a former pupil, now a member of a GIA splinter group intent on delivering a very explosive message to the government. Sent into a country town with her family in order to recover, Rachida finds that while physical wounds heal quickly, psychological wounds are ever-lasting. And with the town held captive by continual and random guerrilla attacks, any chance of a true recovery is dashed.

Wednesday, 30th November 2011 at 07:00 PM

Games of Love and Chance / L’esquive

Abdellatif Kechiche | France | 2003 | 117 minutes

A look at life in the public housing projects outside Paris. In a crumbling neighborhood with a majority of immigrants from Northern Africa, a high school tries to produce a play by Pierre Marivaux (1688-1763). The heart of the film is the budding romance between the vivacious blonde Lydia (one of the few ‘native’ French living in the neighborhood) and the shy and painfully inarticulate Krimo, who is ridiculized by his thuggish friends for taking a part in the play.

Wednesday, 7th December 2011 at 07:00 PM

A Thousand Months / Mille mois

Faouzi Bensaïdi | France / Belgium / Morocco / Germany | 2003 | 124 minutes

A woman in a remote village struggles to raise her son with her father-in-law, while they await the trial of the boy’s father on political charges. We do not get very close to the characters, with close-ups used sparingly if at all, and this is not a film in which one is likely to feel caught up in the plight of its protagonists, save on a representative level, because very real people like them exist. What is interesting is the wealth of sociological detail: the value placed on furniture; the kaïd who must collect wives wherever he goes (he is so corrupt he can afford them; the farmer who ferries water to a patch of land even though it has been appropriated by the government; the wife contemplating union with another man who visits furtively by night, because she has to support herself and her child somehow. A film, in short, which repays close attention.

Wednesday, 14th December 2011 at 07:00 PM

Enough! / Barakat!

Djamila Sarahoiu | France / Algeria | 2006 | 95 minutes

Set in war–torn Algeria in the 1990s, Enough! follows two women on the dangerous search for the younger woman’s husband, a journalist whose writings resulted in his disappearance. Both women represent anachronisms in Islamist Algeria: the younger woman is a doctor, the older a nurse with vivid memories of Algeria’s fight for independence. Ignoring curfews and the constant threat of ambush by armed militias, the two women challenge the men they encounter to accept them and help them with their search. Their journey leads them across the picturesque landscapes of Algeria, to a deeper understanding of how their lives were shaped by their country’s history.

Wednesday, 11th January 2012 at 07:00 PM