Le Chant de la Noria

By Abdellatif Benammar

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Zeineb has always been strong-willed. She refuses, divorces, and asserts her will. Once divorced, she is free on paper, but remains enslaved as her ex-husband refuses to respect the law, hiring men to violently hound her. Should she leave? She follows M’hamed, who loves her, but who wants to emigrate himself. In the ensuing road movie that takes us deep down into southern Tunisia, the landscapes become increasingly desert-like. The beauty of the settings regularly carries the narrative. The couple, torn by this question of departure in reflection of a country that is losing its children, meet Ali who returns from America wealthy. Is he a mythomaniac, an impostor? In any case, he is friendly and is himself torn by this painful uprooting vis-à-vis his sister who is forced to get by on her own. In one fine image, his justifications are drowned out in the noise of a passing train. Is emigration a mirage? A departure towards another form of poverty? Mouldi, Ali’s sister’s husband, denounces the drain of the country’s best elements, saying, « It suits you to bury the past to absolve yourself! »
Zeineb embodies resistance – « Neither North nor South, nor East nor West! » She has no illusions, however, « No means, no projects, no journeys, no misfortune, that’s our destiny! », before reiterating what Mouldi meant, « The only think we should fear is fear! » Her determination challenges the men, challenges M’hamed, asking where are the men of our childhood? And it is indeed a question of virility here, of the strength needed to take the country’s destiny in hand.
The incisive dialogues and meaningful cinematography depict the characters’ turmoil and melancholy. Without ever condemning, and simply seeking to understand and capture the complexity of the migratory phenomenon, Le Chant de Noria is a beautiful and vital reflection. It is above all in touch with a Tunisia that continues to wonder why it is losing its best blood.

2002, 107 min, 35 mm, colour, coprod. Ben Duran/IMF/ANPA/Canal Horizons (Tunisia), Sam Alta Films/Valentine (France), Soread 2M (Morocco), with Houyem Rasaaa, Hichem Rostom, Ahmed Hafiène.///Article N° : 5595

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