Pic plays more like a increasingly dark fairy tale that doesn't know when to stop.

The sheltered life of a traditional Tunisian mother and her two daughters, staying in the servants’ quarters of an abandoned country manse, is rudely upset when a modern couple move in upstairs in “Buried Secrets.” Sophomore pic of Maghrebi femme helmer Raja Amari (“Red Satin”) is clearly meant to be about the effects of seclusion on the development of a woman’s sense of self, but plays more like a increasingly dark fairy tale that doesn’t know when to stop. Beyond femme and Arab fests, this pic will remain largely buried.

Naive, impressionable teen Aicha (a sullen-looking Hafsia Herzi) is more curious about the outside world than her spinster sis (Sondos Belhassen) and elderly mother (Wassila Dari) are. She eventually wanders into a party that the new inhabitants, Salma (Rim El Benna) and Ali (Dhafer L’Abidine), have thrown upstairs (shades of Cinderella’s ball). Eventually, Salma discovers their hideout and uncovers some family secrets that lead to a violent Sturm und Drang finale, draining the pic of much of its goodwill. Production and sound design are neat, while Renato Berta’s saturated lensing is mainly composed of two- and three-shots. Music is bland.

Buried Secrets

Tunisia-Switzerland-France

Production

A Dora Bouchoucha, Nicolas Wadimoff, Serge Lalou presentation of a Nomadis Images (Tunisia)/Akka Films (Switzerland)/Les Films d'Ici (France) production. (International sales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam.) Produced by Dora Bouchoucha, Nicolas Wadimoff, Serge Lalou. Executive producers, Lina Chaabane Menzli, Eric Zaouali, Nelly Mabilat, Joelle Bertossa. Co-producers, Wouter Barendrecht, Michael J. Werner. Directed, written by Raja Amari.

Crew

Camera (color), Renato Berta; editor, Pauline Dairou; music, Phillipe Heritier, Erik Rug; production designer, Kays Rostom; costume designer, Nabila Cherif. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 4, 2009. Original title: Dowaha. Arabic, French dialogue. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Hafsia Herzi, Sondos Belhassen, Wassila Dari, Rim El Benna, Dhafer L'Abidine.
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