Review: ‘Song of the Noria’

A newly divorced woman, her childhood sweetheart M'hamed and an expansive wheeler-dealer recently returned from America traverse the dusty trails of Tunisia in a white Cadillac convertible in Abdellatif Ben Ammar's joyous and quirkily reflective road movie.

A newly divorced woman, her childhood sweetheart M’hamed and an expansive wheeler-dealer recently returned from America traverse the dusty trails of Tunisia in a white Cadillac convertible in Abdellatif Ben Ammar’s joyous and quirkily reflective road movie. Helmer excels at making characters resonate symbolically without clunky moralism, imbuing proceedings with a loose, unpretentious, extemporaneous feel. Pic’s go-with-the-flow ease, well-thesped character oddities and subtle surprises prove enjoyable, but may be too ephemeral to exert any real pull with non-fest auds.

Zeineb (Houyem Rassaa), on the run from a jealous husband who beats up everyone in his path, seeks liberation, not so much from her vengeful ex as from fear itself. Her boyfriend M’hamed (Ahmed Hafiene), meanwhile, hopes to escape his country’s provincialism. Promised work on a movie that would finance his emigration, he chases a caravan of location trucks that appear and disappear like mirages in the desert. He finally catches up with them only to emerge from a tent dressed as a soldier of Carthage, ghost of Tunisian splendors past. Together the travelers seek to learn how to survive in a land whose youth dream only of leaving it.

Song of the Noria

France-Tunisia

Production

A Ben Duran/IMF/ANPA/Canal Horizon/Sam Alta Films/Valentine/Soread 2M production. Produced by Ben Duran, Sam Alta. Executive producer, Ivan Sadik. Directed by Abdellatif Ben Ammar. Screenplay, Gerard Martin, Ben Ammar; dialogue, Nourredine El Ouerghi.

Crew

Camera (color), Christophe Paturange; editor, Mohamed Lotfi Trifi; music, Jacques Davidocivi; set designer, Taofik El Behisound (Dolby), Chibeb Aoun. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (African Horizons), Aug. 30, 2002. Arabic and French dialogue. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Houyem Rassaa, Ahmed Hafiene, Hichem Rostom, Ahmed Snoussi, Jamila Chihi.
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