Review: Hidden Beauties
Beauty in the Midst of the Struggle - A personal take on Nouri Bouzid's Hidden
15.10.2012 - The whole world watched the
unfolding drama after Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and the
Tunisian revolution flared on our TV sets, in the privacy of our
homes. We sat there at a distance rooting for the people and their
fight for freedom, and cheered when they came out victorious.
However, in his latest drama Hidden Beauties, which screens at ADFF in its World
Premiere, veteran Tunisian director Nouri Bouzid gives us a reality
Not only does he take us into the homes of these
revolutionaries, giving us a glimpse of what life is really like
amidst and around the struggle, but he bluntly forces us to witness
the violence inflicted during the riots. We are able to feel what
the citizens of Tunisia were feeling, to experience what they
experienced and to watch the brutality up close. Nor does he spare
us on a dramatic level - Hidden Beauties is a
uncompromising portrait of conflict at different levels of Arab
society - personal and familial, religious and political.
The story introduces us to two young, beautiful Tunisian women
who are full of life and hope. The revolution has lit a fire in
them to fight for their freedom and their rights as women, in the
same way the people are fighting for the freedom of their country
and their human rights. Zainab and Aisha are presented to us as
more than just friends; they are family, having each other's backs
and protecting one another when needed. When Zainab is afraid to
walk home on her own, Aisha unhesitatingly accompanies her. However
all is not well in their world.
As Zainab's fiancé Brahim and brother, Hamza, push her family to
force the Islamic veil on her, Aisha's boss at work is pushing her
to take it off if she wants to keep her position. With her younger
sisters and grandfather to provide for following the death of her
parents, she can't afford to lose her job. As the men in their
lives try to make decisions for them, Aisha and Zainab uplift each
other's spirits with music and song. They mock their circumstances,
they laugh it off, and they cheer on the revolutionaries on the
street. Such is the spirit of these two girls, as they fight within
themselves and with everyone around them and remain strong. They do
not waver in their beliefs and convictions, and they refuse to
allow their male-dominated society to dictate to them how to live
their lives. Instead they end up slowly but surely changing the
mentalities of those around them instead.
Hamza escaped from prison when the revolution started and has
become a militant Islamist. He is a high-strung, judgmental, rigid
man whom Aisha can't recognise as the person she fell in love with
anymore. The intense scene in which he visits Aisha at her flat
when he can't stand to be apart from her any longer is one of the
highlights of the film, with the tension, and the extreme need,
felt through the door as they stand on opposite sides of it so
tangible it can be cut with a knife.
The film touched a raw nerve for me with the past couple of
years I've been through. I've had to make so many changes in my
life, face many battles with my own family, and go through so many
internal conflicts regarding my beliefs and values that I found
myself relating to, not one, but both female protagonists. It is
hard to make lifestyle choices that everyone else in society is
opposed to. It is hard to stand up to what you believe in when
everyone else is standing against you. However, I like to believe
that I came out triumphant, just like Zainab and Aisha.
Just like the people of Tunisia.
Bouzid certainly does not disappoint with Hidden
Beauties, as he takes on sensitive or controversial issues and
tackles them, finding the right balance between portraying the
ugliness of the world and the beauty of it. Appropriately enough
the director himself takes on the role of a blind accordionist who
appears throughout the film, touching our hearts with his songs,
and leaving us longing for peace in our world.
Hidden Beauties screens in its World Premiere on Monday
15 October, 9:30 pm at Emirates Palace.
It screens again on Thursday 18 October, 2 pm, at VOX
Cinemas, Marina Mall.