Film Review: A cinematic exploration of the human instinct to defy and disobey

A still from ‘The River.’ (Image supplied)
Updated 28 October 2018

Film Review: A cinematic exploration of the human instinct to defy and disobey

TOKYO: The final movie in Emir Baigazin’s Asian trilogy after “Harmony Lessons” and “The Wounded Angel” is a compelling study of authority and rebelliousness, sparingly narrated. Screened at the 31st edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival last week, “The River” from Kazakhstan is far removed from the kind of cinema that modern generations are used to. Set in a remote Kazakh village, it is a powerful story about generational conflicts and the natural human instinct to defy and disobey.

In “The River,” or “Ozen,” the line of control is crystal clear, with the father standing tall and intolerant of even the slightest dissent from his five sons, who live in a dry, dusty landscape. The father (Kuandyk Kystykbayev) demands and receives unquestioning obedience from his children and he makes them slog, forcing them to sleep on hard wooden beds. They are hit hard if they err in their duties and he does all this to keep them safe from the wicked world outside their little gated existence.

But the sons see this as worse than slavery, crueler than the harshest of prisons. The father grooms his eldest son, Aslan (Zhalgas Klanov), to take over the reins of the family. Hidden behind Aslan’s almost emotionless face is a rebel — he takes his siblings to the river, a place strictly forbidden by his father, and the youngsters build a cross and hang a scarecrow in one of a few Biblical references in the film.

Then the monotony is broken by the visit of a mysterious distant cousin, Kanat (Eric Tazabekov), whose jazzy clothes — jolting against the bleached landscape of the boys’ village, created by thoughtful cinematography on Baigazin’s part — and electronic tablet imply that there is more to the world than the young boys previously believed.

Kanat’s technology brings with it conflicting news from the world beyond the village, which leads to shifting familial relations, tensions between the bothers and quickly dissolves the sibling’s warped sense of paradise in this raw exploration of freedom, family and dissent.


‘Noura’s Dream’ becomes nightmare dilemma in this raw tale

Hend Sabry plays the lead role in ‘Noura’s Dream.’ (Supplied)
Updated 16 October 2019

‘Noura’s Dream’ becomes nightmare dilemma in this raw tale

CHENNAI: Hinde Boujemaa’s “Noura’s Dream,” which premiered at the recent Toronto International Film Festival and later featured at El Gouna Film Festival, saw the movie’s protagonist, Hend Sabry (Noura), clinch best actress award at the latter.

The director, who also wrote the script, tackles an unusual dilemma for a woman being pulled in three different directions by her husband, lover and three young children, two of them girls.

It is certainly not an easy task to lead a story such as this – emotionally complicated and set in Tunisia – to a closure.

In an interview with Variety, Boujemaa said: “There have been movies about adultery, but very few of them have been wholly empathetic to the woman. There’s often a kind of moral judgement attached. I wanted to make a film without any hint of moralizing.”

“Noura’s Dream” opens with a romantic scene. Working in a prison laundry, she is seen on her phone talking to her lover, handsome garage mechanic Lassaad (Hakim Boumsaoudi), and the two are all set to marry, her divorce just days away.

Her husband, Jamel (Lotfi Abdelli), is in jail having been caught committing petty crimes but when he is freed early after a presidential pardon, things get messy.

The director tackles an unusual dilemma for a woman being pulled in three different directions by her husband, lover and three young children. (Supplied) 

Boujemaa’s film has the feel of a Ken Loach (British director) movie, with its take on the predicament of the working class. There is a certain raw quality about “Noura’s Dream,” devoid of the polish and psychological complexities of “Marriage Story” (screened at Venice), in which auteur Noah Baumbach portrays the pain of a marital split with a degree of levity and sophistication.

A similar approach and treatment cannot be taken with Noura’s story, which is set in a very different kind of social environment that gives little freedom or equality to a woman. Take, for instance, the scene in which Noura’s defense lawyer, a woman, makes her client feel small and guilty, reminding her of the injustice and harm a split would do to her children.

Boujemaa’s film has the feel of a Ken Loach (British director) movie. (Supplied) 

Sabry brings to the fore the quandary of Noura, who is completely lost.

Should she go ahead with the divorce and marry Lassaad, a union that could mean abandoning her children who need their mother? Or should she stick with her wayward husband? There are no easy answers.