Monday, November 07, 2011

Tiariq Teguia's "Rome plutôt que vous"

I saw this film at Georgetown last week and I want to put in a very strong plug for it. It's not been released for the English-speaking market, so it's only available with French subtitles. It's a kind of road movie, with a very New Wave feel, telling the story of Zina and Kamal trying to find a guy who is going to supply Kamal with a fake passport, so he can migrate to Europe.

One of the the elements of the film that I was interested was in how rai music plays an important function, at key points in the film. The film rarely has a music soundtrack, it's quite bleak, sonically, just as is the urban and suburban environment, much of the time. Only once do we hear some rai music, while Zina and Kamal and Kamal's friend Merzak are caught overnight in a suburb of unfinished housing, and they take refuge with someone who works in a pizzeria kitchen. At one point, the worker puts some rai music on the cassette player, and they all engage in raucous dancing. It's a moment of very intense, and surprising, emotion in a film that is otherwise characterized for the most part by lassitude and waiting and frustrated searching. You can see a moment of the dancing, but without the music, at about 1:27 on the trailer below.

At another point, Kamal and Merzak (if I remember correctly) are talking and one of them recites a line or two of poetry. One says, that's Cheb Hasni. The other says, or maybe Rimbaud. Cheb Hasni is the much-beloved star of the rai sub-genre known as "love rai," who was assassinated in 1994 by the Armed Islamic Groups. (Probably. Although some say he was killed due to a dispute over money, by someone in the mafia-like syndicate of rai producers.)

At the end of the film, Kamal gets shot, as he and Zina drive away. We have no idea who did it or why and the violence comes out of the blue. Typical of life in Algeria, especially since the start of the civil war in 1992 and the unleashing of the shadowy forces of the pouvoir, the Algerian state, against the Islamist rebels. Kamal says to Zina (presumably he is badly wounded, although we can't see the wound), he hears Cheb Hasni. She calls him an idiot. The film ends.

There is much more to this film than the rai references, but given my interests, nay, obsession with rai, that's what I've discussed here. Again, I highly, highly recommend this film.

No comments: