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Review: (Y)Our Mother


- Samira El Mouzghibati presents her first documentary feature film, a family portrait dedicated to the women in her life - her mother and sisters - which examines the maternal bond

Review: (Y)Our Mother

You’re not born a mother, you become one. In (Y)Our Mother, a debut documentary feature film in the first person selected for the Visions du Réel Festival’s Burning Lights line-up, Samira El Mouzghibati focuses on the delicate matter of the maternal bond. It all begins with a telephone call which deteriorates into an argument, a threat of cutting contact, and, ultimately, estrangement. A seemingly impossible estrangement between a mother and her child. Fast-forward to a family reunion. The mother is invited, by her children and her husband, to say what she feels, but she can’t find the right words. She fails to verbalise the loss which darkens her days. The reality, in this family, is that intergenerational dialogue has died a death.

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"I’m the youngest, I was brought up by my sisters", the director explains. Four sisters and just as many visions of what becoming a woman means. One of them got married too young, another is free and the third is divorced. But all of them struggle when it comes to defining family. To a certain extent, their sorority is what saves them, or keeps them afloat. So one day, Samira whips out her camera and starts to film their conversations, whereupon the sisters open up: "Family holds a huge place in my heart, but I don’t give it a big enough place in my life, and I get the feeling I’m going to regret it".

The documentary might just as easily have been called How I Met My Mother. The filmmaker looks back, benevolently, at her mother’s arrival in Belgium, when she’d only just married one of her neighbours, Samira’s father, who wanted her to assimilate. He took her to the cinema, but what she saw there - war and free love - disgusted her. She chose her own path, of religion and modesty. That’s where she found her freedom, perhaps also because of her marriage, which was probably a happy one, when all is said and done. It takes Samira and her sisters some time to pinpoint that freedom which is still the backbone of their lives and to understand that this is another thing that their mother has passed on to them, in her own way. The film meticulously explores the journeys of these uprooted village-women who will likely feel nostalgic over their homeland for the rest of their lives.

At the same time, the film also explores the unlikely liberation - at 50 years of age - of the eldest sister who had been forced into marriage when she was still a teen. It’s grey zones such as these that the filmmaker probes: how you can love a child yet accept a lifetime of suffering and frustration for her. In this sense, a lesson in acceptance plays out, leading to a potential reconciliation. In conversations with one another, the sisters speak of "your" mother rather than "my" mother. But through its many suspended moments, the film becomes a tool for redemption, when Yuma finally becomes "my" mother for Samira and her sisters.

(Y)Our Mother is produced by Michigan Films (Belgiqum), Pivonka Production (France) and Visualantics (Belgium). International sales are handled by Hors du Bocal, a company recently created by Zahra Benasri.

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(Translated from French)

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