Review: “Halfaouine, Boy of the Terraces” is a charming coming-of-age film from Tunisia that takes a rare look at the inner workings of Arabic culture — the stone- walled streets, alleys, rooftops and households of everyday Tunisia, where traditions seem little interrupted by the modern world.
Bab’Aziz, AKA The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul, is the story of a blind dervish named Bab’Aziz and his spirited granddaughter, Ishtar. Together they wander the desert in search of a great reunion of dervishes that takes place just once every thirty years. With faith as their only guide, the two journey for days through the expansive, barren landscape. To keep Ishtar entertained, Bab’Aziz relays the ancient tale of a prince who relinquished his realm in order to remain next to a small pool in the desert, staring into its depths while contemplating his soul. As the tale of the prince unfolds, the two encounter other travelers with stories of their own, including Osman, who longs for the beautiful woman he met at the bottom of a well, and Zaid, who searches for the ravishing young woman who fled from him after being seduced by his songs. A fairytale-like story of longing and belonging, filmed in the enchanting and ever-shifting sandscapes of Tunisia and Iran. Continue reading
A traveling writer and teller of fables, Nacer Khemir here applies his age-old skills to a narrative feature film, the first in his highly-regarded Desert Trilogy that includes The Dove’s Lost Necklace and Bab’Aziz – The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul. Khemir creates an exotic world with Wanderers of the Desert when a young teacher arrives to take over a village school isolated in the shimmering desert. Reminiscent of the best Iranian films of the 1970s in its use of color and setting, it also has something of the wit, cruelty and ambiguity of the Arabian Nights. Legendary figures materialize out of wells and the desert itself, groups of children hurry through a labyrinth of underground corridors, the teacher is whisked away to a mysterious rendezvous and never returns. Nothing is really explained; Khemir merely shows how legend, tradition and fate hang heavily over this community and he does so with a richly expressive visual style aided by superb use of color. Especially notable is the way the protagonists are always placed against sun-scorched landscapes in which nothing is quite what it seems, like the marvelous moment when everyone gathers around a ship that has mysteriously washed up in the desert sand. Continue reading