Selma Baccar’s film opens with a series of portraits of women who have marked the history of Tunisia through the ages. In a theatrical way, Sophonisba, Kahina, Jelajil, and Aziza present themselves to us as the predecessors, through their courageous actions, of this young girl, Fatma, in 1975.
A slow pace, silence, memory regained, sensuality, Assia’s film tried to lead us far away from our noisy and dogmatic present. It tried to make us seize the intimacy of secluded women in unusual ways. The language of shadows, the language of bodies. The film is set somewhere between Cherchell and Tipaza. The beauty of the locations takes the story to a realm of mythological enchantment while leaving intact the realism of the existential wound that is buried beneath the silence of the characters.
There are encounters that withstand long separations because they happened at a particular time. That goes for you, who I lost sight of for a long time, and who I met in the liveliest days of our lives. Are there lives outside of lively days? Alas, yes. Many years later, we ran into each other and caught up in the queue for a plane from Paris to Cairo, and then in Alexandria we met again, and... since then, we met again where we had parted, in the intimacy of History, the Tunisian revolution had just broken out and our hearts were cheerful.
So your film is more a film about space than about women?
Yes, because saying that my film is a film about women doesn’t mean anything. I’ll always make these films... Female bodies, women are my subject. Like a sculptor somehow, who uses a certain material, while another sculptor will use another material. That should mean something, shouldn’t it? I think that’s what the Cinémathèque audience couldn’t stand; I’ve removed men from my film. But what can I say, except that I’ve just shown what exists in reality. I intentionally separated the sexes in the image, as in reality. The intention is feminist, and why not? I wanted to show the number one problem of Algerian women, which is the right to space. Because I was able to verify that the more space the women had, the firmer they stood.