Review: Noura’s Dream
- Hinde Boujemaa analyses the troubled undercurrents of love and law in Tunisia with a first fiction feature that lets Hend Sabri and Lotfi Abdelli shine
In Tunisia, article 236 of the penal code condemns adultery, punishing the culprit with 5 years in prison and a 500 dinars fine, but only the other partner can begin the procedure or eventually stop it. This is the topic explored by director and screenwriter Hinde Boujemaa (noticed in 2012 with the documentary C’était mieux demain) in her first fiction feature, Noura’s Dream [+see also:
film profile], which had its world premiere in the Discovery section of the 44th Toronto International Film Festival, and will be screened in the New Directors section of the du 67th San Sebastián Film Festival. An issue at the crossroads of social and private lives, which the filmmaker addresses through a simple but nuanced story that also allows her to sketch out a portrait of her country.
“I love you so much I want to bite you”. Love has its reasons, which reason does not understand, and the clandestine affair between Noura (Hend Sabri) and Lassad (Hakim Boumsaoudi) is a perfect example of it. Working in the laundry room of a hospital, Noura isn’t simply the mother to three young children she raises alone the best she can. While her husband Jamel (Lofti Abdelli) is in prison, she is also impatiently waiting for the divorce procedure she started in secret to come through. Freedom and a new start in life are within Noura’s grasp, and talking to her husband in prison, she does not hide from him her extreme boredom with married life and with a family life ruined by Jamel’s misdeeds. But suddenly, Jamel is granted presidential pardon, a relief for him but a source of panic for his wife. Torn between the quietly menacing suspicions of Jamel (“why did you move without telling me?”), who fully intends to exercise all his spousal rights, and the pleas from her lover (“ we’re together, or it’s over”) which push her to run from her marital home, Noura will have to make a decision with heavy consequences…
Skillfully dissecting the unequal male-female relationships in her country as well as the irrationality of love (including a plethora of various lies) thanks to an effective script and a great cast, Hinde Boujemaa also sketches out a portrait of Tunisian society where the law can be compromised by chance, the police by offenders, and where violent rapports of domination (sometimes of the sexual kind) are king. A chiaroscuro portrait which does not compromise for any of its characters and turns a spotlight (as was done in Sofia [+see also:
interview: Meryem Benm'Barek
film profile] by Moroccan filmmaker Meryem Benm’Barek) on a kind of judicial obscurantism that sidelines women. A “denunciation” clearly facilitated in the film by the husband being a criminal, which does not make the film’s questions any less relevant but rather adds an element of suspense to the narration.
Produced by Tunisian company Propaganda Productions, Belgian company Eklektik Productions and French company Films de l’Après-Midi, Noura’s Dream is sold internationally by Wild Bunch. The French release will be handled by Paname Distribution on 13 November.
(Translated from French)
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