Blessed: A generational clash of ideals and reality
by Vladan Petkovic
- Sofia Djama's feature debut is a dense, multi-layered film about two generations of Algerians six years after the Civil War
In her feature debut, Blessed [+see also:
film profile], Algerian filmmaker Sofia Djama shows a finely tuned instinct for human nature and relationships, and for social circumstances and how they influence them. The film world-premiered in Venice’s Orizzonti, and is now screening in the Warsaw Film Festival's Discoveries section.
Taking place over the course of 24 hours in Algiers in 2008, six years after the Civil War which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, the film follows two generations – one that was young and idealistic in 1991 when the war started, and the other one young and not so idealistic at the time of the events portrayed in the story.
Middle-class couple Samir (Sami Bouajila, winner of the Best Actor Award for Days of Glory [+see also:
interview: Jean Bréhat
interview: Rachid Bouchareb
film profile], along with the rest of the cast) and Amal (Nadia Kaci, last seen in Lola Pater [+see also:
film profile]) belong to the former, and their 18-year-old son Fahim (Amine Lansari) and his friends Reda (Adam Bessa) and Feriel (Lyna Khoudri) to the latter. Amal wants to send Fahim to study in France, away from this country in which there is no future. She saw her generation's fight for democracy fail, and her disillusionment has made her bitter, which is reflected strongly in her marriage with Samir, a gynaecologist who performs clandestine abortions. "This is now your little protest against oppression," she hisses.
And Fahim actually likes his life in Algiers. He is having normal, teenage fun, smoking hashish sold by Reda, a devoted Muslim who wants to tattoo a surah on his chest. The two of them hang out with Feriel, a liberal-minded young woman, bitter at religion and grieving for her mother, who, we assume, was killed in the war. An extended dialogue scene with the three of them lays bare their different ways of thinking. Reda plays some halal punk music ("faith through fury", as he describes the genre) in Fahim's room, and Fahim wants it to be loud only to annoy his left-wing, secular parents.
As evening falls, and Samir and Amal go to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary with friends, the youngsters go to exchange a couple of bars of hashish for Reda's tattoo, but a series of events will challenge their beliefs and opinions.
Blessed is a multi-layered film, dense with ideas and questions that resonate far beyond Algerian society. Djama was clever to pick, and lucky to get, such a stellar cast and crew, and discover Khoudri, who got the Best Actress Award in Orizzonti. The cinematography by Pierre Aïm (Poliss [+see also:
film profile], Welcome to the Sticks [+see also:
film profile]) shows Algiers in bleached colours, intensifying the feeling of lost hope, and the editing by Sophie Brunet (Blue Is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile]) gives the film a hyper-realistic rhythm, leaving no doubt as to whether what we are witnessing is really the harsh reality of the time and place.
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