Review: Perfumes of Algiers
The pain of nostalgia and memory
17.10.2012 - In Perfumes of Algiers,
screening this week in ADFF's Narrative Feature Competition,
veteran Algerian director Rachid Benhadj once again emphasizes the
social issues of his country. Benhadj is known for depicted the
stories and sorrows of others in a career filled with films like
The Aggressors (1979), Touchia (1993), The
Tree of Hanging Destinies (1997) and For Bread Alone 2004. In
his latest film, Benhadj tells a melancholic story of an Algerian
family living through tough and dangerous times through the eyes of
Karima, a successful photographer who decided to escape from
Algiers looking for peace of mind in France.
Benhadj depicts some of the painful realities of Algerian life
by focusing on the contrasting personalities of the different
members of a family on the verge of falling apart. Karima is an
independent and liberal woman, while her brother Murad is part of a
terrorist group. Karima's father is abusive and controlling while
her mother is helpless yet resentful.
The film clearly focuses on the role of women in Algerian
society, both weak and strong, centered on Karima, in a fine
performance by Italian actress Monica Guerritore. She is oppressed
by her dominating father (Sayyed Ahmad Avoumi), and she struggles
psychologically until she is able to flee to Paris. As hard as she
tries to forget her past, she remains a prisoner to her memories.
Through these characters, the story emphasizes women's stance in
the society and their rights to freedom of speech and a justice.
When she receives a phone call from her mother, begging her to come
home to Algiers in 1998, Karima finds herself again in the middle
of her family's issues and problems.
Despite the turmoil, the director manages to portray a beautiful
vision of Algeria through the lens of Academy Award-winning winning
Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storraro (Apocalypse Now,
The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky).
Perfumes Of Algiers screens at Emirates Palace on
Wednesday 17 October at 6:30 pm.
For more Algerian films, see ADFF's special programme The Spirit of
Independence: Algerian Cinema