Viva Lald­jerie

A film that teaches Mid­dle Eastern­ers many lessons

The Kurdish Globe - - NATIONAL - Go­ran Sabah Ghafour

Nadir Mokneche, an Al­ge­rian di­rec­tor, suc­cess­fully shows the dis­rupted fa­mil­ial fab­ric of his so­ci­ety by mak­ing a multi-hero film called “Viva Lald­jerie, mean­ing “Hooray Al­ge­ria” in English. It pro­vides deep in­sights into Al­ge­rian cul­ture through four fam­i­lies and sev­eral in­di­vid­ual characters rep­re­sent­ing so­ci­ety as a whole. Econ­omy is one of the topics of the movie that I was struck by as the film ex­plains that bad econ­omy is the source of all the mis­eries of Pachia, Fifi and the apart­ment owner ex­pe­ri­ence i.e. bad econ­omy has dis­rupted the so­cial and fa­mil­ial fab­ric of the Al­ge­rian so­ci­ety.

Re­li­gion is one of the as­pects re­flected in the film and is re­lated to the ma­te­ri­als I’ve so far been read­ing on the film. In sev­eral oc­ca­sions through­out the film, I hear a Mul­lah recit­ing verses from holy Qu­ran, or Imams call­ing for prayer. Those as­pects sug­gest deep con­tra­dic­tion be­tween a re­li­gious so­ci­ety, in this con­text Al­ge­rian, and the deeds each mem­ber of the so­ci­ety is do­ing and in­volved in: hypocrisy, adul­tery, prosti- tute, cheat­ing, steal­ing and so on.

The over­view scenes show the un­de­vel­oped side of the coun­try. Scenes of young men, ham­pered by job­less­ness, play­ing tra­di­tional games, soc­cer and hang­ing around. Es­sen­tially, the wast­ing of en­ergy of youths for no real ben­e­fit. The of­fi­cial, who was a reg­u­lar cus­tomer of Fifi and then ran af­ter her for his gun that was stolen by Goucem, shows cor­rup­tion in government.

The shut­down of the Kopacababa, place where Pachia worked in as a dancer be­fore, shows how so­ci­ety, busi­ness and en­ter­tain­ment have be­come a sac­ri­fice to ter­ror­ism. Un­e­d­u­cated Goucem, Fifi, Yacin (a gay and son of Anees who is mar­ried and has promised to marry Goucem) shows the lack of ed­u­ca­tional in­fra­struc­ture of the coun­try and op­por­tu­ni­ties of study for youth. Th­ese in­sights have all been han­dled very well by Mokneche.

Al­ge­ria, a gate­way be­tween Africa and Europe, has been bat­tered by vi­o­lence over the past half­cen­tury. More than a mil- lion Al­ge­ri­ans were killed in the fight for in­de­pen­dence from France in 1962, and the coun­try has re­cently emerged from a bru­tal in­ter­nal con­flict that fol­lowed scrapped elec­tions in 1992. The Sa­hara desert cov­ers more than four-fifths of the land. Oil and gas re­serves were dis­cov­ered there in the 1950s, but most Al­ge­ri­ans live along the north­ern coast. The coun­try sup­plies large amounts of nat­u­ral gas to Europe and en­ergy ex­ports are the back­bone of the econ­omy.

Sur­pris­ingly, I was most struck by two im­ages or scenes in the film. First is the scene when all the doc­tors ran af­ter an 8 year old boy to catch and cir­cum­cise him. This 5 sec­ond scene is very strong as it shows one deep as­pect of Al­ge­rian cul­ture, widely prac­tised in the en­tire Mid­dle East, which is cir­cum­ci­sion. That re­minded my sim­i­lar case when I was 9. Se­condly, a three sec­ond shot of a sign of “LG” brand which means Life is Good. That was mar­vel­lously used by the di­rec­tor; a para­dox which tells ev­ery­thing else is good but Life for the Al- geri­ans.

I said ear­lier that the film is a multi-hero one. That means each main char­ac­ter was a hero in the film telling a spe­cific or even more than one as­pect of Al­ge­rian life. For in­stance, Yaseen, spelled Yacin in the film’s English sub­ti­tle, is in­ter­ested in men. That tells us that he is gay. Goucem knows about that. He begs her not to tell his fa­ther about it. This shows an­other deep cul­tural, re­li­gious and mo­ral blasphemy in the Al­ge­rian so­ci­ety i.e. that gay­hood is for­bid­den to a high ex­tent.

Anees, fa­ther of some kids in­clud­ing Yaseen, is very clev­erly used by the di­rec­tor as his char­ac­ter shows the hypocrisy, dom­i­nance, wicked­ness of rich men, adul­tery, cheat­ing, and ug­li­ness of Al­ge­rian men in so­ci­ety. He is sleep­ing with many at the same time while he’s mar­ried and has been drag­ging Goucem on her ab­domen by promis­ing to marry her.

Goucem’s fam­ily seems to have been dis­rupted and gone astray af­ter her fa­ther died. It’s very clear when Pachia, Goucem’s mother and ex-dancer, deeply weeps af­ter danc­ing for a while in the bar. Woman in the Mid­dle East­ern so­ci­eties face a dif­fi­cult life af­ter they lose their hus­bands.

In the 1990s, Al­ge­rian pol­i­tics was dom­i­nated by the strug­gle in­volv­ing the mil­i­tary and Is­lamist mil­i­tants. In 1992, a gen­eral elec­tion won by an Is­lamist party was an­nulled, herald­ing a bloody civil war in which more than 150,000 peo­ple died. An amnesty in 1999 led many rebels to lay down their arms.

Although po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in Al­ge­ria has de­clined since the 1990s, the coun­try has been shaken by a cam­paign of bomb­ings car­ried out by a group call­ing it­self al-Qaeda in the Land of Is­lamic Maghreb.

Women in those so­ci­eties have only one card in life; a very pre­cious card that is mar­riage. If that card turns good i.e. they marry a good man, then her life would be like a par­adise.

How­ever, if fate would play the card bad then her whole life would be in mis­ery and agony. Con­sider how mad Goucem is for Anees. She finds her dream and life in mar­ry­ing him, a bad choice though. On the other side, men have many cards and that’s shown in the char­ac­ter of Anees who is play­ing with sev­eral women at a time.

One can eas­ily tell how Goucem has gone astray and be­come twisted. She had two abor­tions and lost her vir­gin­ity; both are a source of de­spise, re­buke and be­lit­tling of a woman in those so­ci­eties. She has one friend, Fifi, who is a whore, a good-hearted one though. Goucem de­stroyed Fif’s life, as well, just by steal­ing the gun of the of­fi­cial. In an­other way, the ac­ci­dent (death of Fifi) was a kind of re­form for Goucem be­cause af­ter that she gave up her dream in Anees, a right de­ci­sion, and went back to Samir, a young guy who may have a good fu­ture with Goucem.

To me, the film is not only a re­flec­tion of Al­ge­rian so­ci­ety but per­haps pretty much that of the en­tire Mid­dle East and North Africa.

Pachia is a dancer, but ev­ery­one in the so­ci­ety thinks she is a pros­ti­tute. This is an­other bad im­pres­sion of men on women in those so­ci­eties. It’s clearer when Triz­izi, daugh­ter of apart­ment owner, tells Pachia that her teacher had told her bad things about her. This very short sen­tence means a lot be­cause it tells even ed­u­cated peo­ple does not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween whores and dancers.

The end is also done very clev­erly by the di­rec­tor. It gives so­lu­tions. Goucem should look for a young man to marry, not a guy like Anees. Pachia can sing and work to scrape a liv­ing. How­ever, the movie failed to come up with any so­lu­tion for gay­hood, hypocrisy, cheat­ing, and bad econ­omy. All in all, the film shows only the prob­lems but it does not pro­vide the so­lu­tions. The end is very open for view­ers to tell what would hap­pen to Goucem and Samir. Would Pachia con­tinue singing in the new bar with­out the fear of ter­ror­ism?

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