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Song of the Millennium

Mohamed Zran's portrait of his homeland, Tunisia, takes him from the port city of Zarzis into the countryside. Contradicting Western expectations about emerging nations and Arab cultures, people analyze their situations with candor. "Song" rarely shocks but always engages. Docu's quiet virtues are unlikely to translate into Stateside pickup.

Mohamed Zran’s laid-back, contemplative portrait of his homeland, Tunisia, takes him from the tourist-filled port city of Zarzis into the countryside. Matter-of-factly contradicting Western expectations about emerging nations and Arab cultures, everyday people analyze their situations with incisiveness and candor. Moving in well-dosed increments from one interlocutor to the next, “Song” rarely shocks but always engages. A welcome addition to the fest circuit, docu’s quiet virtues are unlikely to translate into Stateside pickup.

Throughout the rural area, people are seen trying to cope with a changing economy. Fishermen stand around their well-equipped boats that they purchased by overfishing waters which now yield less than a bucketful. Solar energy fuels a bathhouse in the middle of the fields. Women weavers talk of selling their wares on the Internet while a teenage girl reluctantly abandons her studies because the family can’t keep three kids in school. Asked about their millennial dreams, one youngster wants to invent something no one has ever seen, another wants an end to all wars, a third wants to be a turtle. Tech credits are fine.

Song of the Millennium

Tunisia-France

Production: A Sugho Films/Mandala production. Produced by Francine Jean-Baptiste. Directed by Mohamed Zran.

Crew: Cinematographer (color, DV), Nabil Saidi; editors, Elisabeth Moulinier, Larbi Ben Ali. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival, May 10, 2003. Arabic, French dialogue. Running time: 79 MIN.

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