Inch’ Allah Dimanche (2001)

  “France is messing up her brain.”

inch-allahInch’ Allah Dimanche is an amazing film–right up until the last 5 minutes when it loses all credibility. Set in 1974, it’s the heart-wrenching story of an Algerian family reunited under French president Chirac’s “Family Reunion” policy. Up until that time, Algerian men who worked in France were not allowed to bring their families with them, but in 1974, that law changed. Zouina (Fejria Deliba) and her three small children leave for France with her truculent mother-in-law Aicha (Rabia Mokeddem). Zouina–who’s lived apart from her husband Ahmed (Zinedine Soualem) for 10 years doesn’t want to leave her elderly mother, but she’s dragged aboard the ship, and it sails to France.

The reunion isn’t a particularly happy one. While Ahmed greets his mother and ushers her graciously inside their new home, Zouina is more-or-less ignored, and this sets the tone for the relationships in the household. Zouina is completely under the control of her mother-in-law, and forbidden to leave the house, she’s treated like a slave. Zouina is relentlessly abused verbally as a matter of course, and beaten when she actually does something wrong. While Zouina speaks French, she doesn’t understand the culture, and many incidents occur that result in beatings. She manages to make two friends–Nicole, a young divorced woman, and the widow of an officer killed in Algeria.

While Zouina’s plight is explored with some intensity, the film also includes moments of lightheartedness. Zouina’s neighbours–the Donzes–are a house-proud pair of gardening fanatics who are simultaneously appalled and fascinated by the goings-on next door. Unfortunately, as the film reaches a crescendo, it dives into complete implausibility, and there is no reason whatsoever to explain the complete reversal that takes place. This cop-out ending just doesn’t fit the rest of the film, and that’s a shame. From writer/director Yamina Benguigui, Inch’ Allah Dimanche is in Arabic and French with English subtitles.

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Filed under Algerian, France

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