Viva La’lderie (2004)

 “Then let’s sin away.”

vivaViva La’ldjerie follows the lives of three women living in Algiers as they negotiate the yawning gap created by the two vastly different cultural worlds they live in. As the spread of fundamental Islam clashes with the westernized aspects of Algerian society, the three women attempt to adjust their lives with varying degrees of success.

Goucem (Lubna Azabal) works in a photo shop during the day, but by night, she hits the clubs and bars. At 27, she’s considered ‘left on the shelf’–and everyone wants to remedy this by matchmaking Goucem with various men they know. Goucem is involved in an affair with a married doctor (Lounes Tazairt), and while she hopes something comes of that relationship, she also picks up men at clubs for one-night flings. She rents a small room in a tatty boarding house, and this she shares with her widowed mother Papicha (singer Biyouna). Papicha was once a famous dancer and singer, but now with society’s shift to traditional roles for women, she’s apprehensive of reprisals if she’s recognized when she ventures out.

The third woman in the film is the prostitute, Fifi (Nadia Kaci). She lives in the same building and is great friends with Goucem. Fifi has a booming business, but some of her customers aren’t savoury. Fifi doesn’t worry about getting married. She argues, “All the men who come to me are my husbands.”

These three women lead vastly different private vs. public lives. All three venture out in public fully covered from top to toe. But Papicha, for example, performs erotic dances in see-through fiery red outfits at home. The three women find that their dual roles collide–with permanent results. When Papicha hears that an old nightclub, the Copacabana is being converted into a mosque, she’s galvanized into action and seeks her past. Fifi and Goucem discover terrorism’s grip on their culture, and Goucem learns that even the police–who steer clear of incidents that smack of terrorism–hold fundamentalist ideas about the roles of women. Exotic, colourful and with great music, Viva La’ldjerie from director Nadir Mokneche is recommended. In French and Arabic with English subtitles.

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